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Council budget workshop Thursday

August 6, 2014
By JIM LINETTE ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

City Council will sit down with the city's department heads Thursday for a public workshop on the 2015 budget. The workshop will be in Council Chambers at City Hall from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m.

Council will go over budget items with the department heads to gauge what their specific needs are for next year and beyond and discuss funding options for the future.

At council's direction, Public Works Director Steve Neff and Parks & Recreation Director Steve Pohlman will be available for questions along with Police Chief Bart Connelly and Fire Department Chief Donald Cochran.

"We'll be looking for general stuff," said Mayor Marni Sawicki. "There are a lot of things we have not worked out with that budget yet. We need to know what each department needs, if it's more personnel or it's more money, and why do they need it."

Council likely will go over the millage rate that council set at 7.7070 at last week's regular council meeting. That rate is the same as the 2014 operating budget which the city will need since the Florida Supreme Court has yet to rule on an appeal of the Fire Services Assessment methodology lawsuit.

City Manager John Szerlag's proposed $146 million budget for 2015 was calling for a 0.75 mil rate reduction, but that was contingent on the implementation of the FSA. The methodology is being challenged in court by a group of residents maintaining that the assessment is not legal. The court case is before the Florida Supreme Court appealing a ruling after a Circuit Court judge validated the methodology earlier this year.

Fact Box

To go

What: City 2015 budget

public workshop

When: Thursday, Aug. 7,

12:30-4:30 p.m.

Where: Council Chambers,

Cape Coral City Hall

It is less likely now that a ruling will be handed down before the Sept. 15 deadline for council to set the final millage rate that goes into effect on Oct. 1.

The proposed budget also takes into consideration that the Public Service Tax will remain at 7 percent and the FSA, if implemented, achieves a 64 percent cost recovery rate for the upcoming year. The assessment would bring in more than $18 million in revenue to the city next year. The city billed and collected about $10 million from the assessment for 2014 and put the funds in an escrow account pending the court's appeal ruling. If the court rules against the city, the money would be refunded to property owners.

"This is an excellent budget," Szerlag told council during a previous presentation. "It is one that I am proud of and that staff is proud of. It has been a long time since the city had a budget that moved the city forward. It's not a one-year budget either, but a three-year plan for economic sustainability."

Szerlag's proposed budget includes a 5 percent increase in base salary for city employees, who have not gotten an increase for seven years. It also includes a capital funding plan as well as reinstatement of a streetlight program, parks master plan and plans for a Bimini Basin project and Seven Islands in Northwest Cape.

Some or all of the projects could be stricken from the 2015 budget if the FSA is not implemented.



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