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Council wants voters to decide GO Bond issue

By Staff | Feb 16, 2011

Cape Coral City Council members want voters to decide if a General Obligation Bond is the right way to deal with hundreds of thousands of dollars in utility debt, and they want them to decide this November.
Council asked city staff to begin taking the necessary steps to ensure the GO Bond is on this year’s election ballot Nov. 8.
Councilmember Kevin McGrail said previous discussions of putting a GO Bond before voters wasn’t feasible because the city would have had to pay for a special election.
“I feel this was a great way to let our citizens make this decision. And I like that we can do this at this next election, because that’s one thing we had to factor in, paying for a election,” McGrail said.
The GO Bond would cover roughly $322 million of utility debt.
City Budget Administrator Sheena Milliken said the bond would provide “the most bang” for the city’s buck.
Utility rates are scheduled to increase 8 percent over the next three years, and Milliken said the city only has a handful of options to effect those rates and deal with the debt: rates or the number of users can increase; the city can institute a facility expansion charge by having properties pre-pay for their spots in the plant, but that option has no precedent; or the city can put public service tax in place.
“We need higher rates or more users or an alternative funding source,” Milliken said
The other option is the GO Bond, which could lower the utility rates, but raise property taxes based on the average home price when the bond is issued.
McGrail said he’s received feedback from property owners of higher end properties who were worried about being taxed twice.
“We got feedback from higher end residents asking, are you trying to tell people of means to stay out of Cape Coral?” McGrail said. “I’m a little reluctant to discourage high end buyers from coming to Cape Coral.”
Putting the issue before voters is giving them the opportunity to “let them speak,” according to Councilmember Bill Deile.
Deile said putting the issue before voters isn’t endorsing the GO Bond as a council member, it simply lets voters decide if its something they want to do.
“I don’t think anyone up here would object to letting people decide their own fate,” he said. “Something as big as this, I’m only endorsing moving forward with letting the people be heard … I don’t fear what they say.”