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Council to hold final meeting before summer break

By Staff | Jun 7, 2013

The Cape Coral City Council has much to do before going on its month-long hiatus of meetings, and it will have a lot of loose ends to tie up once it returns.

Items regarding the fire service assessment and the utilities expansion project will be front and center when council reconvenes for meeting on July 15.

The UEP will wait until July, however, the fire assessment is an urgent matter that council will tackle Monday.

It will consider an administrative resolution to approve the Fire/Rescue Non Ad Valorem assessment study performed by Burton & Associates, which determined the methodology for the fire service assessment.

It will provide City Manager John Szerlag direction to prepare the necessary ordinances and resolutions to implement the assessments.

The fire assessment is set at 63 percent of the cost of operations, which will collect up to $20.7 million as the second prong of Szerlag’s revenue diversification strategy, according to Connie Barron, city spokesperson.

The first one was initiated on April 29 when city council approved a 7 percent public service tax to be levied on LCEC electric bills. The third prong will be a reduction in the city millage rate by one mill or roughly $8 million in total.

The public hearing date for the ordinance to authorize the imposition and collection of fire service assessments, which relate to fire protection services, facilities, and programs will be set for July 15.

That ordinance is sponsored by six of the eight on council. Only Chris Chulakes-Leetz and Mayor John Sullivan are opposed.

Sullivan said he still believes more can be cut from the budget and that older vehicles should be fixed and not replaced.

He also said with the preliminary valuation figures in, it believes the city jumped the gun on new taxes.

“I’m dismayed we started passing ordinances and creating taxes before we knew from the property appraisers how much more revenue we would take in,” Sullivan said. “We should have looked to see how much more revenue we can take in.”

After Monday, Barron said it’s a chance to council and staff to breathe while it works to get the budget together.

In other words, it’s a break, but it isn’t.

“It’s basically a summer break. But staff doesn’t take a break. It continues to work to prepare a budget that the city manager has to have to city council by mid-July,” Barron said. “We’re working on what we have to, as well as the fire assessment. We’re really busy. We’re just not having meetings.”

Sullivan said the only difference is that council doesn’t have to read the packets pertaining to the meetings they don’t have. Other than that, as the city’s ceremonial figurehead, he’s always doing something.

“My job requires a lot of time. I do everything a council member does and more,” Sullivan said. “I’m always doing something at a function somewhere. Sometimes I may go to four or five functions.”

City council has the authority to call a meeting if it becomes necessary to have a vote if a storm moves into the area to give Szerlag the authority to move emergency plans into action, Barron said.

On Monday, city council will also discuss an administrative resolution concerning nearly $700,000 in Community Development block grants for next fiscal year.

The city must submit an annual action plan, which outlines the city’s funding priorities and allocates funds to local not-for-profit agencies, to the Department of Housing and Urban Development by August 15.

HUD requires this plan to have two public hearings.

The resolution adopts the action plan and directs Szerlag to prepare all necessary documents for the submission of the plan, and to accept and execute the grant agreement when received from HUD.

Department of Community Development Planning Division will provide a presentation of the proposed allocations at the first public hearing.

City council meets at 4:30 p.m. at City Hall on Cultural Park Boulevard.