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Cape Council to discuss revenue options

By Staff | May 23, 2009

Cape Coral City Council members will discuss ways to generate revenue during a budget workshop Wednesday, but some council members are also focusing on cutting expenses as they grapple with one of the most difficult budget years in recent memory.
Councilmember Bill Deile asked city staffers to retrieve employee salary records for 2007 and 2008, to see how employee expenses can be controlled next year.
The number of employees who earned more than $100,000 per year jumped from 78 in 2007 to 125 in 2008, but that figure was aided by an employee buyout instituted at the end of last year. Of those 125 employees, 40 retired in 2008.
Deile was struck by the overtime expenses for one particular department.
“Some of the highest people with overtime were in the Water and Sewer Department, which struck me as strange,” Deile said during a telephone interview Friday, adding that he has not fully analyzed employee salaries.
Councilmember Dolores Bertolini is also looking to cut employee-related expenses, and called on fellow council members to consider furloughing employees or cutting the number of work hours per week.
“I think it’s one of the things we’re going to seriously have to investigate,” Bertolini said.
A memo from Financial Services Director Mark Mason to Bertolini earlier this month showed that furloughing all salaried employees for one week — imposing a week off of work without pay –would save the city $241,635. The same memo showed moving to a 37.5 hour work week instead of the traditional 40 hours for workers at City Hall would save the city $856,778.
Bertolini favors the cutbacks before cutting whole positions.
“We can save jobs, it’s being done all over the country,” Bertolini said.
City unions would have to agree to the furloughs or reductions in work weeks for them to be imposed.
The Cape Coral Professional Firefighters have already agreed to a wage freeze, and Bertolini is looking for similar concessions from other city unions.
“We’ll be looking at everyone. That’s the key, to save as many jobs as possible,” Bertolini said.
Mayor Jim Burch said the unions recognize the harsh economic times faced by the city and should be willing to work on a solution.
“All options are on the table. The firefighters, they did come to the table and decide to freeze their wages. What’s in the best interests of the city ultimately is in the best interests of the unions,” Burch said.
During the revenue-focused budget workshop Wednesday, the council will discuss the possibility of a public service tax that could tack up to 10 percent on residents’ electricity bills, and increasing the millage rate.
Council members will not take formal action during the meeting, and Burch said concrete revenue details could be hard to come by until the Lee County Property Appraiser’s numbers are released later this summer.
“Until we get the final numbers from the property appraiser, it’s going to be difficult,” Burch said.