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Cape Council gives nod to tax rate, new city budget

By Staff | Sep 6, 2019

Cape Coral City Council is one step away from passing its 2020 city budget after unanimously giving a nod to both the “rollback” millage rate and $897.49 million package Thursday at City Hall.

Residents will have one more opportunity to weigh in on Sept. 19 at the final public hearing at which time the finance plan for the budget year to begin Oct. 1 will be formally approved.

The property tax rate was approved at 6.4903 mills, which is the rollback rate from the 6.75 rate the city had last year. City manager John Szerlag had recommended a 6.55 rate.

One mill is equal to $1 for every $1,000 or taxable valuation and the rollback rate is the rate at which the city will receive the same amount of revenue as the previous year.

Council also approved the separate parks millage on the $60 million GO Bonds parks plan at a pro-rated 0.06 mills.

In an addendum to the passing of the preliminary budget, Council also agreed to look at two revenue sources that could bring the city additional funds: FEMA reimbursement related to Hurricane Irma and the sale of surplus property the city purchased years ago in a then-controversial land buy.

“That money is not part of the budget and we don’t know how much property is going to be sold. We can put it into a reserve account so this Council can make the decision on what to utilize the funds for,” Mayor Joe Coviello said. “It’s discretionary in my mind.”

The city is still waiting to receive reimbursement from FEMA for costs associated with cleanup from Hurricane Irma in 2017. The city has been approved for roughly $10 million, but it is not yet known how much more it will receive.

The second fund will come from proceeds from a 2012 land purchase the city made for 491 parcels at a cost of more than $13 million.

At the time, the purchase was very controversial. However, now, the city plans to sell some of that property, and once it pays back the money it borrowed from other city funds such as stormwater to buy the land, the city expects to make a pretty good profit, especially with the Seven Islands, the crown jewel of the purchase, which the appraised at $25 million.

Coviello said they’re trying to do a lot for the city such as add another sidewalk crew and do other public safety project to help make bus stops safer, such as increased lighting.

“I don’t know the direction we will go in, but the idea is to be able to make those decisions as we go along, so it doesn’t get lost in the general fund,” Coviello said.

The General Fund budget, which funds city operations, is proposed at $233.4 million, up from last year’s $211.64 million as approved and $221.46 million as amended,

There was no comment from the few people who attended the meeting, which took all of 20 minutes.

The final budget hearing will be held Thursday, Sept. 19 at 5:05 p.m. at City Hall, 1015 Cultural Park Blvd.