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Mayor weighs budget veto

By Staff | Sep 3, 2011

Mayor John Sullivan is proposing he use his line item veto power to excise the police and fire department budgets.

Sullivan said the numbers are “incorrect” and it is going to be up to the city manager to take another stab at his proposed budget.

“Those budgets are based on something that didn’t happen,” Sullivan said. “I’m making it well known I want to put them in veto until they fix those numbers.”

City Manager Gary King could not be reached for comment Friday.

Sullivan said the desire to veto those numbers is not a retaliatory move against the police and fire union memberships, which failed to ratify negotiated contracts that called for 3 percent decreases across the board for both departments along with 2 percent increases in pension contributions..

The city and the unions have essentially found themselves at a stand-off regarding the negotiating process, although the city recently counter offered the police and fire unions with an 8 percent decrease.

Neither union has voted on the proposal.

Sullivan he’s not retaliating against anyone, the numbers simply don’t work. Sullivan estimates there is a $2.6 million “hole” in police and fire budgets.

“Those numbers were built on false promises. I don’t want them sitting out there that way,” the mayor added.

Cape Coral Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 33 Union President Kurt Grau said he heard a rumor that the mayor wanted to eliminate the police department, a move he added would bankrupt the city due to over $62 million in pensions that would have to be paid out.

The mayor didn’t confirm he was looking to eliminate the police department, only re-examine the budgets of fire and police.

But Grau thinks the mayor also is attempting to frighten the union and its members into making a decision to accept the city’s terms.

“This is a scare tactic to make us agree to the terms of their contract,” Grau added. “I don’t think he’d be bringing this up right now if we weren’t negotiating.”

Cape Coral Professional Firefighters Union Local 2424 President Mark Muerth said he didn’t understand the mayor’s proposal, but he hopes Sullivan keeps the public’s safety in mind while taking another look at the fire department’s budget.

“I would hope he would not jeopardize the public’s safety so he could retaliate against the union,” Muerth said, adding, “I hope he wouldn’t be that irresponsible.”

Councilman Kevin McGrail thinks the mayor might be putting the cart before the horse.

As the budget hasn’t been approved and council has not even had its first workshop, McGrail said council needs to discuss the budget before making that type of decision.

“It’s premature,” McGrail said. “Why would you veto something you haven’t approved or talked about?”

City council is set to have a budget workshop on Tuesday, Sept 6, starting at 9 a.m. in room 220A in city hall.

Councilman Marty McClain said a veto “doesn’t mean anything” because the budget has yet to be approved.

“The document is a work in progress. That’s what workshops are for,” McClain said. “There’s nothing to veto. It’s not yet an approved document.”

The city’s charter requires a super majority vote to override a line item veto, should one actually be forthcoming.

City Attorney Dolores Menendez could not be reached for comment.