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Charter revision board formalizes proposed changes

By Staff | Apr 17, 2015

If a contemplated charter amendment hits the ballot this year, Cape Coral city council members and the mayor would no longer be compensated according to the number of registered voters per district. Instead, they would be paid a flat salary with the ability to increase their compensation by up to 3 percent per year.

The change is being proposed by the Charter Review Commission, which placed it on its proposal list during a final meeting Thursday in the conference room at City Hall.

The city council appointed panel also dotted the I’s and crossed the T’s on other proposed charter revisions it will bring to council on May 4.

“We just went over the verbiage on the PowerPoint presentation and fine tuned the presentations because we will represent the commission before council,” said Stacy Lomonico, charter revision board chairperson.

The commission had some issues regarding the proposed emergency ordinance Section 4.19, which took a while for them to get straight and was the major stumbling block for what was an otherwise uneventful meeting.

It took a while for the city attorney to do research to find where Section 4.18b was. Since that wasn’t brought to the commission’s attention, everyone got confused, Lomonico said.

Council compensation, though, will likely be among the hot topics the commission proposes, along with a change that would decrease the number of signatures needed in a petition for a referendum.

In regards to compensation, the commission suggests that effective Oct. 1 of next year, each city council member would be compensated at the rate of $28,000 per year, with the mayor earning $32,500 annually.

Since 1993, the mayor has been paid 20 cents per registered city elector and 17 cents for council members. The number of electors is determined on Nov. 1 of each year and salaries adjusted thereafter.

Currently, there are 113,357 registered voters. At 20 cents per voter, the mayor is paid $22,671.40 per year. At 17 cents per voter, each council member is paid $19,270.69.

Proponents of the change say the per voter method creates a problem during years the Lee County Elections Office does a “purge” of those who have not voted for six years, as board members then receive less pay. It also means more money on years with a presidential election.

Lomonico and Debbie Strode made short statements in support of the new pay structure. Little was changed in regard to the verbiage.

“It’s been 22 years since there’s been a change in their salary. We want quality people and want to be sure the people are serving are compensated well enough to want the job,” Lomonico said. “We’re aware the electorate may not want the bill to go through, but we should try anyway.”

As for petitions, the commission proposes that initiative and referendum petitions be signed by 10 percent of qualified electors in the city from the last city election, down from 15 percent.

Under another proposed change, the city council, not the city manager would appoint the city clerk.

Other changes included prohibitions of discrimination for or against, with religious opinions redacted, and a change that would, effective in 2016, have the city council appoint a charter commission consisting of seven regular members and two alternates. The wording currently provides for nine members.

Those went through without much discussion.

Rana Erbrick, council liaison, said Thursday was the culmination for four months of hard work.

“They got their scripting together and the PowerPoint presentation, so we’ll wait for May 4.”

There was little public comment.

Resident Jack Mattachione said he was concerned the charter revisions weren’t being made with the residents in mind.

“I’m not sure if this will be a committee for the city or the citizens. My gut feeling was that they didn’t care what I think,” said Mattachione, who is pushing for both an amendment that would require voter approval for new taxes and tax increases and anothter that would lower the number of signatures to get citizen initiatives on the ballot.

Mattachione, though, conceded he was not aware the board had already voted on its proposed charter changes last week and Lomonico said his input would have been appreciated during the months of discussion on the proposed revisions.

“I really wish he had come in the earlier changes of our meeting. We’ve been meeting since December. We had already voted as of last week,” Lomonico said. “We have time constraints and have to bring something to council because what they bring forward has to go on the ballot. We’re done.”

The council will look at the proposed changes, decide whether to move them forward or not. Those moved on by the council will go through the process of getting on the November ballot.

Council may also choose to bring forward its own proposed changes.