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Residents plead for parks, programs

By Staff | Jul 29, 2009

Despite the possible institution of new user fees for Cape Coral athletic fields some Parks and Recreation Department programs will be cut under the current budget proposal.

That had supporters of those programs speaking out Monday during a Financial Advisory Committee meeting, asking officials to save these things during an extremely tight budget year.

The over 50 softball and baseball leagues, city-sponsored special events, and some special populations programs are not budgeted in the current proposal.

“I’m here to urge you to reconsider turning over our league,” Frank Russo, president of the over 50 softball league, told committee members.

Linda Biondi, vice president of the Cape Coral Sons of Italy chapter, implored committee members not to recommend the cancellation of special events funds, which would put a dent in her organization’s plans for the Columbus Day and Veterans Day parades.

“We have been planning this event (the Columbus Day parade) for close to nine months now,” Biondi said.

The Columbus Day parade is scheduled for Oct. 10. The fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

Their pleas did not fall on deaf ears.

“I think we have to find ways to put some of this stuff back in the budget,” Committee member Lyndia Bradley said.

The Parks and Recreation Department is trying to cut about $2 million from the budget. That is part of a $10 million overall cut to the general fund.

Plummeting home values have decimated the city’s primary revenue stream, with taxable value falling nearly 50 percent in the past two years in the Cape.

“This was the most difficult budget process that I’ve ever experienced,” said Steve Pohlman, director of the Parks and Recreation Department.

A proposed user fee for athletic fields of $40 for residents and $80 for nonresidents is expected to generate $321,400 from a variety of groups, including youth sports.

Without the fee, the Parks and Recreation Department’s athletics programs would need an additional $427,000 to maintain current service levels. Softball players in the over 50 league said they are willing to fund the operating costs of the league, but haven’t had sufficient communication with the city.

“They haven’t told us in writing they’re going to eliminate our program,” Russo said.