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Council OKs 6.957 millage rate for 2016

By Staff | Sep 23, 2015

City Council approved its proposed millage rate of 6.957 Monday night, which represents a .75 mil reduction from last year’s rate, and fixed its Fiscal Year 2016 operating budget total at $630,219,944.

There were two main sticking points for council members during discussions. One, a proposed $100,000 payment to the CRA to assist with debt service stemming from the undergrounding of electric distribution lines in the district in 2012. The other sticking point was a $150,000 item to fund a Bimini Basin project manager’s position.

Some on council think it is too early to pay a project manager when no project is on the drawing board at this time.

“I think we should move that $150,000 from the Bimini Basin project manager and add it to the $850,000 earmarked for special projects to make it a million,” said Councilmember Rana Erbrick. “I think it is premature to hire a project manager at this time.”

Others on council think it best to have the money budgeted in case a project is brought forward in the next year.

“We have to determine the extent of infrastructure improvements that must be done to support the Bimini Basin,” said Councilmember Jim Burch. “Everything done there will be dependent on the infrastructure available.”

The money is part of what council at recent meetings had decided to do with the $2.7 million settlement the city won from LCEC in a lawsuit over who pays for utility relocation from the Santa Barbara and Del Prado Boulevard extension improvement projects.

The $850,000 figure Erbrick alluded to is part of the LCEC settlement and is earmarked for future special projects that are not yet established. The rest of the settlement funds are divided up for such things as street paving, Economic Development marketing and travel, median maintenance and improvements, street lights and fire department fleet replacement. Council kept the project manager’s figure in the budget and approved $100,000 to the city’s Charter Schools for repairs and maintenance.

Burch made a motion to include the $100,000 one-time payment to the CRA for debt service, but council shot it down with a 4-4 vote. A second motion to approve the 2016 operating budget without the CRA funding sailed through unanimously.

“This is a monumental evening for us,” said Burch. “We have a budget that I’m not totally comfortable with, but it’s the right thing to do to give money back to the people of Cape Coral. I’m very proud of what we’ve done. We have needs and wants. This year we are taking care of our needs.”

The 2016 operating budget is the first with full implementation of its revenue diversification plan now that the Florida Supreme Court of Appeals ruled in the city’s favor on the Fire Service Assessment methodology that was the focus of a citizens’ group lawsuit.

Council’s next regular meeting is scheduled for Monday at 4:30 p.m. in Council Chambers.