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Citizens address millage rate, city budget and more

By Staff | Sep 10, 2009

Two weeks remain until Brandon Reich learns whether he will keep his home.
Already in foreclosure, Reich sought to refinance his house through Bank of America.
Unfortunately, the lending officer informed Reich that pending city taxation far exceeds his income, and he was denied the loan.
“I never thought in a million years they would raise the millage,” he said. “People are hanging on by a thread here. It would literally be the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
Like many people in Cape Coral, Reich arrived in Lee County during the boom years. Like many, he also is waiting to see what the Cape Coral City Council will do with the 2009-10 millage rate.
At a public hearing Wednesday regarding the millage and the budget for the next fiscal year, council approved a tentative millage rate of 8.3113, down from 8.8241.
Council also approved a tentative 2009-10 budget of $408,877,961.
Public comment was overwhelmingly against both items as homeowners and business owners packed council chambers for more than three hours to have their voices heard.
Citizens criticized everything from the Community Redevelopment Agency’s budget, to the new public safety building, to the salaries and budgets for the city manager and attorney’s offices.
Citizen activist Lynn Rosko railed against the city’s job cutting moves over the last year.
“You just can’t go after the employees that are doing the job and keeping the city going every day,” she said.
Councilmember Derrick Donnell said the council was bound to draw the ire of citizens for any decision it made regarding the millage rate.
Anything over last year’s millage would spell disaster in the minds of Cape citizens.
“We’ve been working, been struggling to get that number down,” he said the council’s budget workshops. “But anything above the previous millage is unacceptable (to citizens). Either way you turn, if it’s not 4.7698, we lose.”
Councilmembers Bill Deile and Pete Brandt voted against the 8.3113 millage rate.
Brandt was the lone dissenter on the vote to set the tentative budget.