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Cape council to set 2010 budget Wednesday

By Staff | Sep 19, 2009

Following months of work, Cape Coral’s city council will set the 2009-2010 fiscal year budget Wednesday amid a public response that has been less than enthusiastic.
The budget, earmarked at $119,805,000, is up roughly $3 million from City Manager Terry Stewart’s proposed budget of $116 million.
The millage rate, which was tentatively set at 8.824, has been lowered to 7.976, which equates to $7.98 for every $1,000 in taxable assessed value.
The current property tax rate is 4.768 mills.
Mayor Jim Burch said he was proud of the work council has done on the budget, despite what he called citizens’ perceptions.
He added that the current council inherited a budget of $170 million and consequently dropped operating costs by $50 million.
“Our residents don’t understand we’re not spending that money, Burch said. “The millage rate happens to be higher and that’s the frustrating part because people look at the millage and think it’s a bad job.”
The last public hearing on the budget saw council members sit through three- plus hours of public comment.
At one point, the line to speak snaked around the back wall of city council chambers, with citizens waiting for hours just to address the proposed millage rate and the budget.
With 50 percent less revenue coming into the city, council member Dolores Bertolini said citizens are focusing on the wrong thing.
As this year’s proposed millage is higher than the current millage rate of 4.768, Bertolini added that the city is unable to use reserves during this budget cycle.
“We are spending less money despite the fact we had to raise the millage. People zeroed in on the millage from last year when we used the reserves,” she said.
Burch does not anticipate any major hiccups leading up to the final vote.
He said the council seems to be in agreement on both budget and tax rate and the city doesn’t appear to be able to sustain many more cuts to the budget.
At Thursday’s workshop alone, council decided to excise three firefighter positions, two police patrol cars, and eight police officer positions that are vacant, along with adjusting the dredging program and reducing IT equipment.
“We’re right where I’m hoping we would get,” Burch said.
The 2009-2010 budget hearing will be set 5:05 p.m. Wednesday in council chamber at City Hall.
The new budget year will begin Oct. 1.