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Cape Council to set tax caps Monday

By Staff | Jul 23, 2020

Even though the process has been ongoing for months, the last week of July is typically when the Cape Coral city budget process for the new budget year ramps up.

On Monday, during the Cape Coral City Council’s regular meeting at 4:30 p.m. at City Hall, the elected board will set the initial not-to-exceed assessments and ad-valorem taxes.

Unlike in past years, there are two huge things that could factor into the new budget. One is the COVID-19 pandemic, and the other is the changing of the guard at the city manager’s position.

Mayor Joe Coviello said the city has taken some revenue losses, much of which has came from sales and gas taxes. He will have to look at the rest of the numbers before deciding how to attack that.

“We may have to look at efficiencies in our budget process to not only maintain our level of service, but also maintain our low tax rate moving forward,” Coviello said. “COVID-19 will play a role in the decisions we make going forward.”

Many of the projects the city planned to fund with gas and sales taxes have already been postponed, Also, the money the city received as Irma reimbursements and from selling surplus properties could also play a role, Coviello said.

Lot mowing, solid waste, fire protection, stormwater and the proposed millage will be set for the 2021 fiscal year. Once set, that number cannot be increased, but it can be lowered.

City staff is expected to recommend the city keep its ad valorem tax rate at 6.4903 mills, which is $6.49 per $1,000 of taxable value on your property. The rollback rate, the rate that would keep city funding exactly as is, would be 6.2428 mills.

If the recommended rate is approved, it would account for $103.36 million in the FY2021 General, or operating, Fund, which is currently $256,793,157.

Also, the Fire Service Assessment is 62 percent cost recovery, while the Public Service Tax is expected to hold at 7 percent, representing the other two legs of the “three-legged stool” budget approach implemented by City Manager John Szerlag, who will pass the baton to Rob Hernandez, who will take over the city manager position on Aug. 12.

Szerlag is retiring.

Coviello said he doesn’t believe the switch will have much of an impact.

“Our budgets are created by the department heads who give input. They have done a good job, presented their budgets, and we will have a few budget workshops prior to finalizing the budget,” Coviello said. “I’m hoping he brings a fresh perspective to the budget.”

Mowing services are expected to remain the same, with the costs of districts 1, 2, 3, and 4 being $73.40, $56.98, $57.62 and $55.48, respectively.

Solid waste removal will cost $210.19, which includes a 7 percent increase in collection services that was agreed upon by the city and Waste-Pro in its new contract. Last year’s rate was $199.59.

The stormwater fee is expected to hold at $119 from the $125 recommended by consultants. The city staff recommends no increase because of the economic uncertainty.

Budget workshops are scheduled for Aug. 11, 18 and 25. The first public hearing on the budget is set for Sept. 3, while the final hearing is scheduled for Sept. 17. Both meetings will be at 5:05 p.m.

In other business, the city council will once again consider Downtown Village Square. The developers had requested an amendment to the phasing schedule for the project.

However, in a letter to Vince Cautero, developer Robert Lee wrote that due to the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic in Florida, the developers don’t feel it safe to travel to Florida at this time and will request another continuation to a time upon which the city and developer can agree.

The hearing examiner has recommended the amendment be denied.

City Hall is at 1015 Cultual Park Blvd.