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Updated: Council OKs ‘not to exceed’ millage rate

By Staff | Jul 28, 2015

As expected, City Council unanimously approved the “not to exceed” millage rate for the Fiscal Year 2016 budget at the staff proposed level of 6.957 at Monday night’s meeting at City Hall.

The rate approved is .75 mils lower than last year’s rate of 7.7070. It’s also less than the Lee County Tax Collector’s calculated rollback rate of 7.2985 which would provide the same amount of revenue as for 2015 taking into account the property value increase.

It is the first time the city’s millage rate has dipped below 7 mils since 2009. Ad valorem revenue generated by the 6.957 mils is estimated at just over $74 million, or $3.6 million less than for 2015.

The final millage rate will be approved after two public budget hearings on Sept. 10 and Sept. 25. The millage rate at that time can be set less than 6.957, but not more.

The .75 mil reduction represents council completing a promise made to taxpayers more than two years ago to reduce the rate by 1 mil with the implementation of the Public Service Tax (.25 mil) and Fire Service Assessment (.75 mil).

Council also approved two major resolutions and one land development ordinance Monday night.

Unanimous approval was given a resolution for city staff to move ahead with a permit application process to remove the Chiquita boat lock.

The resolution will be carried out in two phases. The first phase, expected to be completed by October, grants payment of $41,000 to Avalon Engineering to assist in the application methodology to meet the expectations of the Florida DEP providing water quality standards.

Phase 2 addresses the environmental aspects of the removal and is authorized for a maximum expenditure of $200,000 per Florida Statute under this consultant contracting method. The funds are available from the $1.1 million returned to the city in March 2012 after the conclusion of the North Spreader Ecosystem Management Agreement. Completion of both phases of the process are expected by March 2016.

Public Works Director Steve Neff listed the positive implications relating to the lock, which was constructed in the early days of the Cape’s development.

“The lock has had maintenance issues in recent years,” said Neff. “It’s in a saltwater environment which makes it subject to maintenance issues and corrosion. Many improvements have been made in that area since the lock was built. We have the dual water system and sewer systems installed to eliminate septic discharges and there have been no effluent discharges since.”

An estimated 50 people attended the meeting to support the action.

Council also voted to continue its research and consultant study toward creation of a Municipal Electric Utility (MEU). The second phase of the study will cost the city $48,000 to pay the Spencer Consulting Service fee.

Councilmember Derrick Donnell, who cast the lone vote against the resolution, cited the preliminary cost estimates between $300 million and $500 million to purchase assets as reason not to proceed.

“I am quite comfortable that we have the knowledge and expertise to take on our own electric,” Donnell said. “The cost is the issue, even at $300 million, is not the way to go. We’ve done our due diligence and I don’t want to spend any more time or money on it, so I will not support this. I’d rather we spend that time and money in tidying up that franchise agreement with LCEC.”

The 30-year franchise agreement with LCEC expires in the fall of 2016.

The development project known as Sunset Pointe Subdivision at the western end of Cape Coral Parkway was unanimously approved after lengthy staff and developer presentations highlighting the aspects of the 58-unit, 20-acre gated community.

The development will be built on the southwest corner of Cape Parkway and Sands Boulevard by D.R. Horton. Council approved several deviations from the city’s land use regulations, engineering and design standards, and a special exception request to allow six model home sites with no more than two operating at any one time.

The deviations dealt with minimum lot sizes and square footage, lot width and utility easement placement.

The next regular meeting in Council Chambers is set for Monday, Aug. 3, with a special workshop meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 5.