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A differing opinion

July 3, 2013
Cape Coral Daily Breeze

To the editor:

In the world of politics, there are no "right or wrong" answers, nor is one position better or worse than another. We all have our own beliefs, morals, values, experiences, and challenges that form our personal opinions. Some of the best discussions and decisions originate from these differences of opinion.

Dissatisfaction with our government frequently originates from the belief that our opinion has not been heard and that we have not had a voice in the decisions that impact us. Thus, it is commendable when a group of citizens with similar beliefs exercise their constitutional right to organize to ensure their voices are heard.

What is not commendable is when opinion is misrepresented as fact and information is used in a misleading manner to influence others. Cap Cape Taxes is a new group comprised of residents who are dissatisfied with increasing taxes and cost of City operations.

Cap Cape Taxes claims that the average household can't afford increased taxes. On their Facebook page they state,"Some are employed and others are retired with average incomes significantly above Cape Coral's median per capita income of just under $25,000 annually," implying that City leaders are out of touch with the finances of residents. While it is accurate that the Per Capita Income in Cape Coral is $24,489, it is misleading to those who may not understand that it is calculated by dividing the total income in a geographic area by the total population in that area, including infants, children and teens. Median Household Income is generally considered the more reliable indicator of wealth; it is the number in which half of the household incomes are above that number and half are below. The two numbers are calculated very differently and it is misleading to compare the "average income" of City leaders with the "median per capita income" of residents in the same sentence. The percentage of Cape Coral residents living below the poverty level is 11.9 percent compared to 14.3 percent in the U.S. The U.S. Per Capita Income is $27,915 and the Median Household Income is $52.762. The Median Household Income in Cape Coral is $51,407.

Cap Cape Taxes states that Cape Coral is wasteful of tax dollars. The group created a presentation called "The Sting" in which they claim the city Parks and Recreation summer camp used Cape Coral tax dollars to take children to a Fort Myers movie theater for a field trip. Their presentation states, "See your tax dollars leaving the Cape". This is inaccurate. The summer camp is fee based; each family pays for their child's cost to participate in the camp; tax dollars are not used to operate the program. (I won't even address the ethics of filming minor children without the knowledge and permission of the parents.)

Cap Cape Taxes posted on their Facebook page, "2001 total rev in millions $147,525,697.00 in , 2007 total rev in millions $482,204,349.00 , 2010 total rev in millions $410,184,186.00 WHAT ARE THEY DOING WITH THE MONEY!". Again, not only are they implying a waste of tax dollars, their data is inaccurate. Total Governmental Fund revenue in 2010 was $154,201,909. Governmental Funds are used to support day to day government operations. In addition, there was $78,976,250 revenue in the Proprietary Fund. Proprietary Funds are limited to the program they support, i.e. water and sewer operations, and the funds are not intermingled with Governmental Funds. I have no idea where the figure of $410,184,186 was obtained but it is easy to form false conclusions when beginning with false data.

Cap Cape Taxes has repeatedly stated that additional tax revenues are not needed because the City has "$250 million in the CAFR". It has been pointed out several times that the CAFR is a document, the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report. It is not a bank account, an investment account, or a fund balance. The CAFR is a detailed report of all revenues, expenditures, fund balances, debts, and assets. Since this statement implies that there is $250 million cash on hand that can be used for operational and capital expenses, I have asked for clarification numerous times on specifically where this $250 million exists. To date, I have not received a response. It is misleading to throw out a number from the document and leave out all context in an attempt to make a point. To set the record straight, the CAFR reports that the Governmental Fund fund balance in 2012 was $79,479,168, the majority of which is restricted for specific uses.

Finally, Cap Cape Taxes posted data on Cape Coral's annual net assets. They state, "Net assets, also known as net worth, is an accounting concept meaning company assets adjusted for liabilities. The logic behind using the term "net assets" instead of "shareholders' equity" is that, by definition of Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB), net assets is what residual value left for company owners after deduction of all the liabilities from all the assets. Based on the FY 2012 report, CC had a net worth of $679.7M". Again, the implication is that Cape Coral has growing assets and does not need additional revenue. The caption on their graph says, "City of Cape Coral assets keep growing, is [sic] your assets growing Citizens of Cape Coral?" While the figures presented are accurate, the argument is misleading. Why? Because they reference FASB which governs accounting principles of private business.The City follows the principles of GASB (Governmental Accounting Standards Board). The net assets are not what is left over to be distributed to "owners"; the assets are the capitalized costs of buildings, roads, sewer pipes, parks, sidewalks, fire trucks, etc. The GASB standards contain no reference to "net worth" as there is in FASB. A city cannot have "net worth."

So by all means, express your opinions be they conservative or liberal and exercise your constitutional right to challenge the decisions of your elected representatives. However, do not incite others to follow with misleading and inaccurate information. And certainly don't claim that your efforts are for the benefit of "all citizens" when, in fact, it is only for the benefit of those with like-minded opinions.

Kirsten Thompson

Cape Coral



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