To the editor:
Every household in Cape Coral recently received from the city, a copy of "On the Move" which contained an article written by some undisclosed person in the City's Financial Services Department.
The article attempted to explain why City Budgets are intended to be understood by the public whereas the City's Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) is targeted for "Finance Professionals who are familiar with the GASB standards." That is what the article said. I say baloney to that. The only reason the city produces a CAFR is because State Law mandates it be produced.
All counties and cities in the state must produce a CAFR at the end of every fiscal year and made available for public viewing. What is lacking is a simple monthly and year end report which compares actual revenues and expenditures to what was contained in the last approved budget, which is clear and understandable to any reader. The City's Annual Audit must contain a statement by the Auditor which says the financial information reported to the State each year agrees with the information published in the CAFR.
Among the things you will find in the CAFR that you never see in the Budget, is Pension Benefits paid each year by the city. Those numbers are - in my opinion - always hidden from view in the Budget even though they are a big part of the expense side of the budget. How big? Well if you look at what was reported to the State in 2005, the total Pension Benefits paid by the city was $6,092,777. That grew to $21,569,941 in 2011. That is a 254 percent increase in six years. In spite of that huge increase, the Unfunded Pension Liability at the end of 2011 stood at $198,123,000 plus another $200,000,000 of unfunded Health Care benefits.
Now I ask, can that be why we do not see Pension Benefits listed as a line item in the Budget? Would it also surprise you to know some retired City employees are receiving annual pensions which are bigger than their Annual Base Pay at the time they retired thanks to very generous "negotiated" contracts better described as "Giveaways" that the public never sees?
What I seek is fair and reasonable Pensions and Benefits that match what people in the private sector receive. Nothing more and nothing less.