To the editor:
In response to some of the comments made on my recent statement of what I see as concerns for the City of Cape Coral.
I did not try to pack everything I know into that one letter. For example, I am well aware of the savings produced by recent agreements with the unions, in spite of one commenter's opinion that I was not. I am also aware that when the figures are given, they seem impressive until you note that it will take 25 years to realize them. On an annual basis, they amount to the neighborhood of 10 percent of current city contributions. Helpful, but hardly drastic. Police pensions are now limited to a mere $95,000 per year maximum. There is not much pain involved there. Even if the entire $2.5M were applied to the firefighter's pension contribution by the city last year, the city would still be matching employee contributions by more than 4 to 1.
Note that at a recent council meeting, one council member in particular was patting himself on the back because of the Moody's rating. On the slide on that topic, there were "strengths" and "challenges" listed. One of the "challenges" was pensions, the 800-pound gorilla in the room that not one council member had anything to say about. If I were trying to get re-elected, I would not say anything either. The unions had already flexed their muscles by putting two members on council, and the message was not lost on current members, or those running for office.
To the commenter who thought that adding the PST and fire assessments was just going to result in us paying the same, but with different components-fuggitabodit. Even with a 1 percent reduction in millage rate, I guarantee you that the increased income from higher property values, the PST, and a fire assessment, are going to add up to significantly more than the $150 increase that council is trying to sell us. We did not have a "roller-coaster" in revenues-what we had was single speculator-driven huge run-up that was treated as if it would go on forever, when any thinking person would realize that a crash was inevitable. During that time city spending increases (pushed by the city manager and accepted by the councils) far outpaced the combined effects of population growth and inflation, resulting in spending on projects that were far more expensive than merited by their actual value. Consider, for example, the work on the intersection of Del Prado and Pine Island Road. For about $80M we got an extra left hand turn lane and about 2 miles of road widening on a lightly used thoroughfare. If $6.5M is going to pave 80 miles of roads in the city, than $80M could pave almost 1000 miles. Which do you think would be the better investment? Prior to this bubble, growth was moderate, and that will be the case for the next 10-15 years, as people who put off retirement have seen their 401k's recover and start to move south (no one retire to the north). A fire assessment (= tax) and property tax would do the job just fine, and also equitably.
Gordon R. Ultsch, Ph.D.