Council passes tentative budget of $490 million; Last hearing Sept. 17
Adverse economic conditions and a soaring foreclosure rate weighed on the minds of Cape Coral City Council members Wednesday as they passed a tentative budget for 2009 of about $490 million.
Last year’s amended budget was $604 million.
“Ultimately our goal is to make sure you’re getting the best bang for your buck,” Councilmember Derrick Donnell said.
The problem this year has been there are less bucks to spare for the city. The value of taxable property has decreased 25 percent from last year, so council members tried to trim the budget as much as possible without cutting essential services.
Offering buyouts to city employees was one method used by the council to reduce costs, and 198 workers have opted for the buyout. The total savings of the buyouts will not be known until the council decides which positions it will refill and which it will eliminate completely.
Councilmember Jim Burch said many employees took the buyout because they know the city is in dire straights.
“A lot of people are taking this buyout because they think it’s going to help the city,” Burch said.
Cape citizens also pushed council members to reduce the budget amid economic constraints.
“Every resident in Cape Coral has been hurt by the downturn in the economy,” said Cape resident Lynn Rosko. “Get your scalpels out and cut the fat.”
Rosko even suggested reducing the compensation of fire and police officers by renegotiating with unions, but council members did not agree that was an area of “fat” to be cut.
“I don’t think we’re going to cut police and fire, but I think we can ask them to hold the line,” Councilmember Pete Brandt said.
“We have not reduced the salaries of police and fire,” City Manager Terry Stewart assured the council.
Council members still have time to adjust the budget — the final budget hearing is set for Sept. 17.
Burch warned that next year’s budget might be even more difficult. He said purchases for vehicles and other items that have been put aside this year are slated for next year.
“There’s a lot of purchases in 2010. We have ratcheted it up considerably for 2010,” Burch said.
Council members passed the budget in a 5-2 vote, with Burch, Donnell, Mayor Eric Feichthaler and Councilmembers Dolores Bertolini and Tim Day voting for the measure. Brandt and Councilmember Bill Deile voted against it.
Councilmember Eric Grill was absent from Wednesday’s budget hearing.