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Final hearing for city budget; Tentative total is $490M

By Staff | Sep 17, 2008

Two days after the stock market dropped more than 500 points and another financial giant announced it was filing for bankruptcy, and two months after the Cape Coral-Fort Myers area had the highest foreclosure rate in the nation, the Cape Coral City Council will pass its 2009 budget.

Council members will listen to citizens and city staff when they convene at 5 p.m. in council chambers to construct a budget some have called the most difficult in recent memory.

“It’s the toughest one I’ve had in eight years,” said Councilmember Tim Day, who has been on the dais since 2000.

Not all council members are satisfied with the way the budget currently stands. Councilmembers Pete Brandt and Bill Deile voted against the tentative budget of about $490 million on Sept. 3.

“It’s not as low as it ought to be,” Brandt said.

He said money from reserves is being used to balance the budget instead of staff cutting spending.

Under the proposed budget, $21.6 million in reserve funds is to be used to balance the budget.

“We shouldn’t take one dime out of reserves,” Brandt added.

Deile also bemoaned the proposed use of reserves, and he criticized City Manager Terry Stewart for using reserves instead of finding ways to cut the budget.

Stewart originally proposed a millage rate of 5.068, but council members voted to keep the current rate of 4.768, or $4.77 for every $1,000 of taxable value.

“We put together a budget based on the 4.768 rate,” Deile said. “He put together a budget based on the 5.068 rate and just used the reserves to make up the difference.”

Brandt and Deile declined to provide specifics on where they would like to see cuts, saying instead that it is Stewart’s job to include reductions in his budget proposal.

The council did offer a buyout to city workers this year as a way to save money, although how much money is saved depends on how many of the vacated positions are refilled.

According to Day, 198 employees accepted the buyout offer and about 50 positions will not be refilled.