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Stewart: Community will feel the impact of budget cuts next year

By Staff | Sep 12, 2009

Cape Coral business leaders got an update on the proposed city operating budget at the Council For Progress breakfast meeting Friday.
The budget will be finalized by the Cape Coral City Council before Oct. 1, the day it goes into effect for the new fiscal year.
City Manager Terry Stewart said the city council became involved in the budget process early on this year. Strategic planning sessions and various workshops showcasing where the budget currently is and where it should be were held.
In previous years, he explained, the city was able to provide the same amount of money in the budget at a lower per-property cost, which ultimately did not negatively affect the citizens and businesses of Cape Coral. This year, the city will not be able to accomplish that, Stewart said.
“We will wind up doing less for less,” he said, adding that the public will definitely feel the impact this year.
Director of Financial Services Mark Mason said the adjusted general fund budget is $142.1 million with an operational budget at $123.2 million and a required millage rate of 8.3113, which incorporates a number of items that were originally eliminated from the budget.
Those included administrative and IT, funding for five code officers that are currently filled positions, reinstatement of the school resource program, two police vehicles, replacement of three certified firefighter positions, along with the replacement of one fire engine. The replacement of signage/striping building, dredge program, road paving program, street light power and three custodians that are currently authorized for the public works program were also added to the budget.
Funds for parks and recreation were also added back into the budget by city council at a decreased amount, Mason explained. He said if $1.7 million was not added back into the budget, the park maintenance would have suffered.
Mason also explained that the budget will include a wage freeze in all funds, which the unions have agreed to, and the elimination of 37 positions.
Towards the end of the meeting, the audience addressed its concern of what is an acceptable amount of service for the community within the proposed budget cuts, which Stewart said a number of people voiced as soon as discussion began about the budget proposal.
Mason said 280 police officers were approved in fiscal year 2008 and there are a total of 252 authorized police positions for fiscal year 2010.
Other attendees voiced their concern regarding how many extra layers in the city still exist, but could be cut to save money in the budget for other areas.
Mason explained staffing and wage issues and said in his professional opinion he believes the city may have gone too far in cutting people and positions.