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Tax and fee issues heavy on Monday council agenda

By Staff | Aug 22, 2013

The city is expected to finalize a number of budgetary items and also hear a presentation from its Budget Review Committee during Monday’s regular city council meeting at city hall.

The Cape Coral City Council will hear from Russel Bell, vice-chair of the BRC, who will inform the council of its agreement with City Manager John Szerlag’s proposed three-year budget, as well as the fiscal year 2014 budget.

Items include the funding of capital improvements, management of its debt and its use of employees through best practices.

The advisory board also will endorse the prudent use of reserves to balance the budget while maintaining the two months of undesignated reserves.

It will also endorse revenue diversification and explore revenue alternatives, such as encouraging the Board of County Commissioners to consider a referendum to raise the Local Government Infrastructure Surtax by .5 percent, evaluate and increase fees where needed and ensure the city is earning an equitable share of incentives from the Horizon Council.

Councilmember Rana Erbrick said this is the first presentation of this relatively new group after the former Financial Advisory Commission was disbanded last year.

“Last year we had just put them in place so it wasn’t fair to expect a comprehensive report from them,” Erbrick said. “They’ve been online for 15 months so they should have a handle on things.”

The city also will decide on an ordinance to authorize $1.5 million in Fire Protection Assessment Revenue notes to fund equipment and vehicles related to fire services.

This would authorize Szerlag and the bond counsel to begin the bond validation process and the parallel track to secure financing through an RFP for a bank loan and the preparation of a supplemental ordinance to be timed to correspond with the expiration of the appeal period for bond validation.

Szerlag listed items the fire department needed totaling $1.34 million, with much of it set aside for a new ladder and two brush trucks.

Along with that is the resolution for the official imposition of the fire assessment.

But that doesn’t appear to be a slam dunk. Although six of the eight voting members approve of the fire assessment, they are split on how to do it.

Four members, approved a methodology with a 38 percent fire assessment with a .25 millage reduction, while two others, Erbrick and Derrick Donnell, want no assessment this year, leaving the city with only the public service tax for this fiscal year and allowing the fire assessment to give into effect in FY2015.

Mayor John Sullivan and Chris Chulakes-Leetz are in favor of no taxes at all.

“We’re now at a 4-4, so we’re going to have good dialogue and work out a compromise position,” Erbrick said. “The public may have a lot more sway here than they realize.”

In other business, the city council will hire a legislative assistant to Mayor John Sullivan to replace Kelley Fernandez, who became assistant city clerk.

The two candidates for the position are Pearl Taylor as the first selection at a proposed $37,710 annual salary, and Rebecca Perry at $35,880 annually.