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Final Cape budget hearing Wednesday

By Staff | Sep 13, 2008

Wednesday is D-Day for the Cape Coral City Council, and that “D” stands for decision.

The Council is expected to pass the 2009 budget Wednesday in a year when home valuations have dropped 25 percent –from $20.9 billion to $15.7 billion — and the Cape Coral-Fort Myers metro area had the highest rate of foreclosures nationwide in the month of July. From the inception of the current economic malaise, families and individuals have had to cut back and prioritize, and now the city must do the same.

Councilman Tim Day, who has been on the dais since 2000, called it “the tightest budget I’ve been a part of.”

One hoped-for money-saving technique used by the Council this year was a buyout offer to city employees, which garnered 198 takers. Whether this will save the city money or indeed cost money will be determined in the next few years as council members decide which positions to replace and which to leave unfilled.

The council passed a tentative budget last week of $492 million, with a General Fund of $149 million, a decrease of $26 million from this year’s amended budget General Fund of $175 million.

City Manager Terry Stewart originally proposed a millage rate of 5.068, but the Council voted to keep this year’s rate of 4.768, or $4.77 for every $1,000 of taxable value.

The tentative budget already shows significant cuts.

The city’s quarterly update released this week states the Police Department made cuts in its District Resource Officer, Marine Patrol, Youth Crime Intervention, Traffic Enforcement, School Resource Officer and Personnel and Training Units programs to “minimally staff” field operations in patrol zones.

The Fire Department, Parks and Recreation, and Public Works also will see cutbacks in services.

The final budget hearing is scheduled to start at 5 p.m. Wednesday.