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Council to talk budget, compensation at meetings

By Staff | Sep 1, 2015

The Cape Coral City Council has a twinbill set for Wednesday starting at 4:30 p.m. at City Hall in council chambers.

The City Council and the Budget Review Committee will hold a joint meeting, followed by the Committee of the Whole workshop, which is expected to start around 6:15 p.m.

The council workshop is expected to be the more important of the two, as the topics are to include ranges of employee compensation and wage philosophy for non-bargaining employees as well as progress on the South Florida Canoe Kayak Club.

The city, in previous workshops, has debated raising those workers to the 75th percentile of cities similar to Cape Coral in regards to compensation and pay ranges (salary and benefits packages).

City spokesperson Connie Barron said currently, Cape Coral sits at or near the bottom of the list in terms of compensation. She said staff is looking for direction on where council wants to go in regards to pay ranges.

The discussion is about setting pay ranges, not about paying everyone in that job the maximum for that pay range Barron said. She did say that the ranges will have higher pay.

“Whatever decision they make will have some impact on future bargaining sessions with the union represented employees,” Barron said. “Council needs to decide where it wants to be on that list.”

Councilmember Rana Erbrick said it’s a decision which could have long-lasting ramifications.

“Are we going to shoot for that 75th percentile, or are we going to be realistic and bring it to the real world?” Erbrick said. “If your best-paid employees are with the city, do we really want to go there?”

The key is to find a number that ensures good retention and recruitment, Erbrick said. On the other hand, thought also needs to be on the end of their careers and hopefully avoid the situation the city was in years ago; having to bargain givebacks from retirees.

“You’re increasing those legacy costs and the choice is to pay you now and not later or to pay later but not do so well now,” Erbrick said. “To pay well now and later doesn’t work for me, as a council member and a taxpayer.”

There will also be discussion on the kayak club, which is expected to be a reaffirmation of its commitment to the project despite some financial obstacles, which Erbrick said could mean the city having to issue bonds to make the project viable.

There will also be a roundtable discussion of other issues that the council deems important.

Before the workshop, the city council and the BRC are expected to discuss the few remaining question marks. Erbrick said funding for the Economic Development Office and what to do with the $2.7 million in settlement money from LCEC are expected to be the main topics for discussion.

“Do we want to throw money at a discretionary budget item? Do we want a fleet building? Do we want to pay cash for cars?” Erbrick said.

Erbrick said she thought she and council had given city manager John Szerlag direction, however staff is asking for more specificity.

“We’re looking for city council to give us direction on where they want to go with that LCEC money,” Barron said. “We need clarification on where they intend that money to be spent.”

The LCEC money is expected to be of particular interest. Erbrick said that money is expected to go toward transportation; the issues is where.

“I thought it would be to pave more roads. The city manager is still saying he didn’t get clear direction. It comes down to semantics at this point. Are we going to discuss something we settled on twice before?” Erbrick said.