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Better than expected… Cape property valuations decline 2.51 percent

By Staff | Jul 2, 2011

Certified tax roll values released on Friday show that Cape Coral’s taxable property values took less of a hit than expected.
Preliminary numbers released in June estimated that the total taxable valuation in the city was set to decrease 4.87 percent, but instead will decrease by 2.51 percent, according to Property Appraiser Ken Wilkinson.
“Overall, the markets are improving slightly and it showed in the last month of work we did,” Wilkinson said. “Cape Coral is going to be tickled pink.”
According to City Manager Gary King, the change between the preliminary and certified values means an additional $1.6 million in revenue for the city.
It will have a positive impact on the budget, King said, and the budget process, which is still under way.
That should be good news to city departments.
Preliminary documents obtained by The Breeze indicate that more than $2 million in cuts were contemplated by the fire department. That worst-case scenario included total blackout of two firestations.
The Parks and Recreation Department was preparing for the possibility of $900,000 in cuts.
King said those documents represented only a snapshot of the overall budget process, and was nothing more than a “short-lived” proposal, many of which have come and gone through the budget process.
“Someone has grabbed that information out of context,” King said.
Programs and service elements are being “stacked” in order of the most discretionary during the process, King said, and, based on the expected revenue, a line is moving above and below those programs.
That line is moving all the time, he said, and at present, nothing is set in stone as to what will and will not survive proposed cuts.
King said it is far too early to know what service levels, if any, may be affected.
“It’s too early to know. The information we just received needs to be factored into the budget,” he said.
Fire Chief Bill Van Helden wrote a memo to budget administrator Sheena Milliken dated June 9, in which he warned that an initial exercise that called for $2,021,617 in budget cuts would force the closing of stations 9 and 10, and drastically impact the city’s insurance rating.
Parks and Recreation Director Steve Pohlman wrote in a similar memo to Parks and Recreation employees dated June 24 that an additional $900,000 could be trimmed from their budget, and a number of services, full-time positions and contract positions would be eliminated, including privatizing the maintenance of Coral Oaks Golf Course.
King and city spokeswoman Connie Barron said those numbers are already “outdated.”
Barron said the budget process has been ongoing since January, and release of those memos, obtained as public records and circulated online by some residents, was a disservice to the citizenry. Barron said the city manager’s budget is due July 13.
“I don’t think it’s a good service to the citizens if information is provided that’s inaccurate or outdated,” she said.
Blue Collar union rep Wally Ilzyszyn said he’s waiting until all the revenue streams are in and he gets a look at next year’s budget before forming a final opinion. He said he had not seen Pohlman’s memo.
“I realize this isn’t etched in stone yet. Council makes the ultimate decision,” he said. “I just feel our employees gave and continue to give.”
Councilmember Marty McClain said he would wait for a budget proposal from the city manager before forming any opinions, and thought the memos indicated early steps in that budget process.
“It wouldn’t put it as gospel until something is formally presented,” he said. “I have not seen anything concrete that says these are going to be the numbers in the budget.”
Overall, Lee County fared better than preliminary numbers estimated.
Projected in June to decrease 5.29 percent, taxable property valuation will instead decrease 3.46 percent, according to the certified Lee County Tax roll.
While admitting to not having a crystal ball, Ken Wilkinson said he would not be surprised if more foreclosures were coming, but not enough to seriously dent the current values.
“We’re not to see a full recovery … but this is probably going to be what it looks like for the next few years,” he added.