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Second BRC/council budget session Tuesday at City Hall

By Staff | Aug 9, 2019

After hearing about the needs of the city’s first responders, public works and community development, the Cape Coral City Council and the Budget Review Committee will learn about what the rest of the city departments need, including the government itself, during the second joint budget workshop Tuesday at 1 p.m. at City Hall.

They also want to hear if the city can find some money in its ample reserves that can help it reduce the millage to the rollback rate or even lower.

Cape Coral Mayor Joe Coviello said the city gets impact fees from all new construction, and he wants to see if some of that money can be used to help fund growth instead of having to use the general fund.

“We issued over 2,000 permits for houses last year. Builders pay an impact fee which goes toward police, fire, schools, roads. Those fees are for expansion,” Coviello said. “If money is built up somewhere, we’ll be able to use those impact fees. We need to take a look at and plan more where these impact fees go and free up some money.”

Coviello said if the city can find $7.5 million in impact fee reserves, they can reduce the millage a half point. With the millage currently at 6.75, that would drop the millage to 6.25, well below even the rollback rate of 6.4903, though he cautioned that they may not find that money.

All told, there is $225 million in reserves throughout all city funds. Councilmember John Carioscia wants to see if they can give some money back in the form of a millage reduction.

“If they can come up with $7.5 million, we can lower the millage by half-point on top of what City Manager John Szerlag has,” Carioscia said, who added the city didn’t use impact fee money for the school resource officers with their cars and equipment.

“In our interpretation, that’s growth, an expansion of the police department and duties. We felt it was O.K. to use them,” Carioscia said.

The two groups will hear presentations from Parks and Recreation, Legislative/ Executive/Legal, government services, the CRA and charter schools.

If time allows, the BRC will give its recommendations, though that will likely come during the Aug. 20 meeting.

Coviello said with the city having used only $10 million of the $60 million GO Bond to start the projects, the special millage is only going to be about .06. Once all the funds are released, it will jump to the .37 millage rate, to decrease as the city builds out over the next 15 years.

“We heard some good questions Tuesday and staff is supposed to bring us back information to council and we’ll decide if there’s a reason to do better than the city manager is proposing,” Coviello said.

“There’s a lot to be discussed and we don’t have any answers we’re comfortable with. I want to give money back to the taxpayers,” Carioscia said.

Szerlag proposes to lower the property tax rate to 6.55 mills, the fourth reduction to the property tax rate since FY2014, but the first since 2017 after Hurricane Irma.

The current property tax rate is 6.75 mills, which equates to $6.75 per every $1,000 of taxable valuation. One mill is equal to $1 for every $1,000 in taxable valuation.

For the FY 2020 proposed budget, the total for all city funds is $897,493,398. The General Fund represents $233,409,130 of the budget.

The third joint meeting between the BRC and City Council would be Tuesday, Aug. 20, at 1 p.m., in council chambers.

The city will hold two public hearings on the budget, Thursday, Sept. 5 and 19, at 5:05 p.m., at City Hall.