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City council to keep financial advisory committee

By Staff | Apr 21, 2009

The future of Cape Coral’s Financial Advisory Committee was cemented Monday, as city council members decided to keep the board with its full complement of seven members.
The committee’s existence was questioned in recent weeks when chairman Michael Foye resigned over frustration with city spending. Combined with committee member Gloria Baron’s absence due to her move to Florida’s East Coast, it was down two members heading into a tough budget process.
Committee member Cheryl Peppers went so far as to suggest the committee be dissolved in a memo to council members last week.
Peppers pointed to the committee only being allotted 45 minutes to present its findings on the budget to council as one reason for disbandment. The minutiae of the budget and the committee’s recommendations take more time to present, she argued.
“The devil is in the details,” Peppers told council members.
But Mayor Jim Burch assured her that the committee would have more dialogue with council members than in years past because they are more involved in the budget process this year.
“The difference between last year and this year is that we’ve started looking at it ourselves much earlier,” he said. “I think we can work together in a more integrated way earlier on rather than waiting until later.”
The council generally does not take an in-depth look at the budget until after the city manager’s first budget report, which traditionally comes out in July.
But facing an estimated 35 percent drop in property values and a corresponding decline in revenues, council members began tackling next year’s budget much earlier, conducting their first budget workshop in December.
Peppers is pleased there would be a more collaborative approach.
“I think that would be valuable. A lot of good things got overlooked because there wasn’t a good platform,” she said.
Some council members advocated going forward with just five committee members, or replacing only one of the empty seats, because the process of advertising the vacancies and accepting and reviewing applications is perceived as taking too long, right when the budget process would be heating up.
“I don’t know why we would replace one member when there are two vacancies,” Councilmember Bill Deile said.
“The process for advertising and appointing someone is somewhat lengthy, and we have the June hiatus coming up,” he added, referring to the council time off in June.
Because Baron’s vacancy had already been advertised, council members decided to select two applicants instead of one.
Applications for the positions are due at City Hall no later than Friday at 4:30 p.m.
Council members will interview applicants during their workshop meeting Monday at 4:30 p.m.