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Council reviews suggestions for budget from FAC

By Staff | Aug 25, 2009

Several budget recommendations were given Monday to Cape Coral City Council members, but among the short-term cuts was the realization of a long-term necessity: reigning in the cost of employee benefits.
Steve Riggs, chairman of the Financial Advisory Committee, issued a report outlining alternative budget suggestions that projected employee benefits would be 47.4 percent of total salaries for fiscal year 2010.
For the current fiscal year, benefits are 38 percent of total salaries. Riggs said a 30 percent ratio would be high for a private business.
“We have to get to the point where there’s a balance between the city employees and the taxpayers, and right now there’s an imbalance,” he said.
Suggestions from the FAC for reigning in those costs include having all employees contribute $50 per month in the upcoming fiscal year for health care benefits. That would generate $1 million, according to the report.
Councilmember Tim Day was averse to cutting benefits for employees, but suggested privatizing or outsourcing the human resources department.
“One of the problems I have is to do anything to those people who have been loyal to the city government,” he said.
“I’ve seen other state agencies privatize that whole function (human resources). There’s not an awful lot of hiring that’s going to go on anytime soon,” Day added.
Other recommendations for cutting employee costs without cutting the number of employees included furloughs, a salary freeze and a salary reduction for all employees on a sliding scale.
Mayor Jim Burch noted negotiations with city unions were ongoing, but they do not sync up with the budget process.
“I need to remind everyone that the budget process runs on a course and the union negotiations have their own course that is separate from that,” he said.
Besides cutting employee costs, the FAC recommended keeping some programs that were left out of the original budget.
In the Public Works Department, the dredging of canals, some road maintenance and street lighting for lights older than 10 years should not hit the cutting room floor. Riggs’ committee also suggested keeping a code enforcement team under the Department of Community Development and various Parks and Recreation programs.
Keeping those programs would add $4.15 million to the target operating budget of $116.4 million. That would raise the millage rate to 8.1088, according to the report
But in a workshop Thursday, council members had already tentatively agreed to include those programs — as well as others like vehicle fleet maintenance that were not in the FAC’s recommendations — in the budget.
The FAC’s report was prepared before the workshop.
Council’s proposed millage rate now stands at 8.4039. The rate for the 2010 fiscal year cannot exceed 8.8241, which was tentatively set earlier this month.