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Question of the Week, Week Four, budget cuts

August 16, 2013
Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Each week through the primary, The Breeze will ask the candidates for Cape Coral City Council an issue-related question. In the interest of fairness, each candidate is limited to the same amount of space, about 100 words, for their response. The question for Week Four is: Are there opportunities for cuts in the proposed city budget? If so, can you provide a specific example(s) of what/where you would cut and the anticipated savings?



Let's take a long-term look at city finances. Cuts to the budget should be supportive of the city's strategic plan. A key goal of this plan is to bring more business to Cape Coral. I would implement targeted cuts of impact fees. I would target specific commercial sectors such as medical, educational, and light industrial. This would be an upfront cost reduction that would have a RETURN ON INVESTMENT. Simply cutting items from the current budget will equate to a 1 for 1 reduction. Impact fee cuts have the potential of a return on investment GREATER than the cuts themselves.



One good example would be to look into the possibility of selling Sun Splash to a nationally know company like "Wet N Wild" in Orlando. Now that Sun Splash has been expanded to be considered a Regional attraction we need to make it a National attraction also. Currently it is closed during "tourist" season, and the water isn't heated. It needs to be expanded, step up marketing and the property should be utilized to its fullest, (i.e. the lake.) Currently the city just doesn't have the resources to do it properly. That being said, the proposed 2014 budget has the park losing $172,000. It should be MAKING MONEY!



Reviewing the budget I have found numerically that cost savings can be achieved at many levels, however this would not honor my promise for a brighter future for all. The budget has been cut for more than four years, at some point cuts alone will return very little and can have the opposite effect.

It is quite clear for Cape Coral to have a future we as a city must act! It starts with the primary, Vote September 10th. Council should stand for the people, not merely exist for special interest; and remember Lee County can provide all of the services our city currently provides.



I feel there are limited opportunities for cuts in the proposed municipal budget. Our city government is increasing doing "less with less" to deliver high quality services. The municipal budget has been balanced through the use of capital funds for several years. For example, the paving of roads and purchase of industrial equipment were sacrificed to meet the needs of daily operations. Our city needs revenue diversification to offset the heavy burden of property taxes. Having a "basket" of fiscal streams will lead to a "truthfully" balanced budget that addresses all the needs of our municipal government.



For me, it's not about "cutting" the budget as much as it is about "managing" the budget. The challenge is balancing "wants" versus "needs" as well as having the ability to understand the strategic vision of the city. Establishing priorities is the first step in realizing opportunities to gain efficiencies. Having 18 years of experience managing large budgets, I understand that balancing act and believe as a city we need to define our strategic vision in order to effectively control expenses. Once elected, I will work with our residents, businesses and Council to define our future and set those priorities.


JOHN J. SULLIVAN (incumbent)

Fleet maintenance is not as efficient as it needs to be. I requested records related to maintenance of police vehicles; there was little or no information. This indicates that the vehicles are not being maintained properly. Early during my tenure we discovered that fire vehicles were not being properly maintained. City workers have told me that the same holds true for heavy equipment. The bottom line is that vehicles without proper maintenance will need to be replaced before their normal life cycle. The city needs to bring in the right people to run fleet maintenance and must have a properly trained maintenance staff. This will result in a huge savings to the taxpayers.

District 1 - PRIMARY


The question is whether the budget is a workable document that represents truth in advertising. Department by department, Council budget has increased almost 100%, the City Auditor increased substantially from 2012 to 2013, Government Services increases from $118 million in 2012 to $175 million in 2016 while Police and Fire decrease $8 million this year. I have concern about the use of reserves this past four years and how the balances (funded and unfunded) are displayed as well as very large "transfers out." We have to balance spending with revenues, by relying so heavily on reserves, that is not accomplished. The limit on words prevent detail but I would suggest that Council review their budget for staff projections, reserve spending and details on how funds are being transferred and designated.



What can we cut? We are bare boned now. We have one alternative left that will not cost the full time residents a dime.

Taxing investors, the owners on the Cape that do not live here 184 days or more. The current government appears more concerned with the "VISITORS than our residents."

This idea is not new and unique. Disney gives a break to Florida residents.

The "BIRDS" that do not own should be staying in Hotels, not private homes at exorbitant rates. People living here more than 30 days should be forced to change their license plates. The LeePass should not be given to out of state tags. If the boys are so concerned about our tourists, why do we not have a tourist attraction?



Since the city has no long-range financial goals in place and there is no action plan to give us direction, I are shooting from the hip. When, we as a family unit, set out our budget, we prioritize what is the most important line items to our lifestyle and what are the least important to our happiness. I feel the council should do the same with the city budget. It is painful but it also eliminates most of those expenditures that we would like, but can really survive without. If the council had funded the Del Prado widening in that light, we would have funds to pave the roads in the northern sector from our gas tax instead of having a gorgeous parkway. With fore thought we can grow as a city and preserve our infrastructure as well.



Regarding the proposed FY2014 budget, since it is slated to be adopted before the elections and by the current council, I would rather offer insight into what goals I have when approaching the amendment phase of the FY2014 budget and beyond. It is priority to me, should I become a member of council that I must develop and maintain a physical working knowledge of the budget by witnessing, with my own two eyes, how the money is spent and/or how services manifest. The overwhelming majority of citizens desire to make an informed purchase based on examination of the product or service - the city ought to do the same.




Yes, expenditure reductions are readily available at all levels of government. Cape Coral is no different. Consolidation of redundant services between the County and City are significant savings the City Council should support. These consolidations collectively would reduce our budget by $3-4 million each fiscal year. There would be no reductions in service to the citizens and in several areas would improve our service models while reducing our budget. There would be no negative impacts or personnel reductions on our core government responsibilities of Public Safety and Life Safety.


There is and will always be the opportunity for city staff and council to make expenditure adjustments to the budget. The past six years city leaders have trimmed a lot of the budget already. I would expect in this budget that staff continue to look for things that can be trimmed but still maintain the level of effectiveness we require from city operations. Residents must remember though we are not at a fully effective level of service yet due to the major cuts we as a city have had to endure. One thing I would like to see looked at in the budget is the employment positions that have not been filled in several years but we continue to set aside dollars for. Are these positions still relevant to city operations today and can they be eliminated? The savings, I do not know.



KEVIN M. McGRAIL (incumbent)

The City of Cape Coral has been in retrenchment mode for the last 4 years I have been in office. The departments have been "sifted through" for cost saving ideas with the Lean analysis program. Employees have taken pay cuts equaling 5% that has been maintained for the last two budget cycles. We are providing City services with staff levels 25% below their 2008 levels. With the City's population expanding and the restart of the UEP imminent, any further savings expected from payroll expenses will be unobtainable, without severe service cuts. We have recently achieved pension savings from our Police and General staff unions that will total $125 million over the next 25 years. The fact that we have cut capital spending for 7 straight years has finally caught up to us. There are NO further cuts there and our need to address this issue, is the whole basis for the Public Service Tax and Fire Service Assessment.



P-3 partnerships such as public/private partnerships or public/public partnerships could yield savings in our annual budget. I'd like to see us team up with local businesses and other local, county or state government entities to share common services, reduce costs, and eliminate duplication. We have enterprise programs that we could team up with private companies to facilitate operation of those programs. Sun Splash comes to mind as a possible candidate for such a partnership. How about shared IT services, printing services, or vehicle maintenance services with the county? I would definitely look into the viability of any or all of these ideas, as well as research other similar options. We must look at all of our city functions and determine if any can be done for less through a partnership. That's just good business. Working with our local businesses should be a priority.

Voter registration, early voting

- Voter registration:

Applications are available

online at,

at all Lee County libraries, and other locations including Cape Coral City Hall at 1015 Cultural Park Blvd., Cape Coral Chamber of Commerce at 2051 Cape Coral Parkway, Department of Motor Vehicles offices, and all Lee County Supervisor of Elections offices including the one in the Cape at 1031 S.E. 9th Place, Suite 3. A full list is available at

- Early voting locations:

-- Lee County Elections Cape Coral Branch Office 1031 S.E. 9th Place, Suite 3 (behind the Lee County Government Center).

-- Lee County Elections Main Office at the Constitutional Complex in Fort Myers at 2480 Thompson St., third floor.

Important dates

- City of Cape Coral

Primary Election: Sept. 10

Voter Registration Book

closes: Aug. 12

Early voting Aug. 31, Sept. 3-7

- City of Cape Coral

General Election: Nov. 5

Voter Registration Book

closes: Oct. 7

Early voting Oct. 28-31, Nov. 1-2.

Cape Coral City Council races are non-partisan,citywide elections meaning registered voters can cast a ballot in each race, no matter party affiliation, no matter the district in which they live.



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