Cape council hopes to decrease tentative tax levy passed
When the Cape Coral City Council adopts its budget next month, it will culminate the longest, most arduous budget process in recent memory.
Councilmembers began working on the budget as far back as December, and on Monday set a tentative millage rate of 8.8241, or $8.82 for every $1,000 of taxable assessed property.
A target operating budget of $116.4 million was set by the council in March, which corresponded to a millage rate of 7.7759 in City Manager Terry Stewart’s budget proposal.
Council members eschewed that figure to avoid drastic cuts and give themselves leeway, since the tentative millage rate cannot be increased once it is set, although it can be lowered.
“It does give us max flexibility but it’s way too much flexibility in my opinion,” said Councilmember Pete Brandt, who voted against the tentative millage rate.
The tentative millage rate is an 85 percent increase in the current rate of 4.769.
Yet Brandt said that even the original target operating budget of $116.4 was not enough to preserve programs in danger of being cut.
Brandt suggested a tentative millage rate of 8.2 be adopted Monday to keep programs in the Parks and Recreation Department, canal dredging and road resurfacing projects funded and keep some street lights on. The motion, however, did not get enough support from the rest of the dais.
“They put (a millage rate) on that had no constraints whatsoever. I was rather chagrined at that,” Brandt said.
The only other council member to vote against the tentative rate, Bill Deile, is looking for budget cuts in order to lower the millage rate to under 8.0.
Negotiations with unions for city workers are ongoing, but Deile said he hopes concessions from those groups will help cut the budget.
“We’re looking at no salary increases for a couple of years, we’re looking at furlough days,” Deile said.
Other council members are also looking at budget cuts.
Councilmember Dolores Bertolini said she is reviewing some of the middle management positions in the Parks and Recreation Department, where some of the most drastic cuts are being eyed.
“I need a better explanation of what their duties are,” Bertolini said.
The council will hold budget workshops throughout the rest of the month.
Public hearings on the budget are set for Sept. 9 and Sept. 23, with council members slated to vote on the budget at the latter meeting.