Cape Council readies to address budget
Cape Coral City Council will return from its five-week hiatus to face several challenges.
Their first meeting as a collective body in over month, members will discuss the status of the Kessler Audit, as well as the documents Mr. Kessler seeks from MWH that he says are needed to complete the forensic audit, among other items.
Members also will have their first tentative discussions on the proposed FY 2010 – 2011 budget, which was released by the city manager’s office Wednesday.
The budget delivers on city council’s goal not to increase the property tax, with projections based on the current millage rate of 7.9702.
The budget also is based on no employee layoffs, and service levels remaining the same.
The proposed budget does require $6.2 million in cash to fund operations and the OPEB benefits. There is currently $28,414,883 available in reserves.
The proposed budget for all funds totals $425,723,833, which includes the general fund at $138,008,382.
City staff is recommending public hearings be set for Tuesday, Sept. 7, and Tuesday, Sept. 21, 5:05 p.m.
Maintaining the property tax rate at 7.9702 mills could result in a tax decrease in the city portion of the tax bill for some residents.
Property owners whose homes are homesteaded and who enjoyed the benefits of the 3 percent Save Our Homes cap during the real estate boom, though, face a tax “recapture” rule and so may not benefit from reduced values.
In addition, both the county and school district are looking at property tax rate increases.
One mill is equal to $1 for every $1,000 in taxable value.
Councilmember Marty McClain said raising the millage was the last thing anyone on council wanted to do.
He said city staff has done a good job of working the budget on the strength of the current millage rate, keeping service levels and jobs on par with current levels.
But McClain’s fiscal concerns stretch beyond this budget year into 2012.
McClain said he would broach the subject of public service tax.
“Coming into 2012, we’re going to have to look at diversification,” McClain said.
Mayor John Sullivan said he didn’t know if council would be able to lower the millage any further, but would not support raising the rate.
Sullivan added that the city’s “tremendous debt” — $840 million according to the mayor — would require more cuts to be made to the budget, possibly to benefits, especially for those employees in the upper range of the pay scale.
“I think there’s room to cut benefits,” he said. “We can’t continue to afford so many people on the payroll making in excess of $100,000 a year.”
Sullivan added that instead of putting jobs in jeopardy, some employees should be willing to take pay cuts to keep their jobs.
With sacrifices for the city on the horizon, he said, employees will have to make a decision.
“The question is going to be will the employees cooperate so we can get enough money out of payroll or make cuts to benefits,” Sullivan said. “I’d rather go after benefits. I don’t want to take money off anyone’s table.”
City council’s workshop is Monday, July 19, 5:30 pm, in council chambers.
They will have a special meeting at 4:30 pm to discuss incoming city manager Gary King’s contract.