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City Council sets assessments, splits on parks plan

August 28, 2018
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

On Monday, Cape Coral City Council set the assessment rate for the upcoming budget proposal which will be considered more heavily on Sept. 6 during the special meeting that will serve as the first hearing for the budget.

The votes on the assessments were unanimous, but not without discussion, particularly when it came to stormwater.

Judy Bicking of St. Katherine Drexel Church had questions on how the fees were being collected, more specifically, the procedure that changes how it is collected, which she said adds steps to the process.

"Taxpayers pay the tax bill prior to reductions being issued, obligating the city to refund by check those taxpayers, who are granted a reduction based on engineer's certifications," Bicking said. "This will have an impact on the cost to the city as well as those affected by the change."

Bicking also said it would increase the number of city transactions, thus increase costs, tie up money for those affected, take space for storage of data and reporting on payments, as well as the risk of fraud. She asked the city to streamline the process.

The church would have to obtain the services of an engineer to obtain a refund from stormwater assessments, which isn't cheap and that other area churches may not be able to afford.

Renee Marazon, a member of the pastoral council, said if the assessment passed, St. Katherine would form a coalition with other churches to let people know their money is not being managed in a way the law requires.

Finance Director Victoria Bateman said funds from all assessments not needed in the short term are invested in treasuries, and that any interest goes back into the stormwater fund. She said audits have shown no findings of issues.

Assessments were passed regarding lot mowing, solid waste for residential and commercial, fire protection, construction fees and utility capital expansion fees.

In an addendum to the agenda, Mayor Joe Coviello asked council to consider three more conceptual plans pertaining to parks to be considered should the $60 million bond referendum in November pass.

City Manager John Szerlag said the plan is to have the concept approved by the mayor and council, talk to the neighborhoods nearby to get their input and to come to City Council if passed and specify what should be built in those parks.

Councilmember Jessica Cosden said she wouldn't vote for it because it was too much to spend if they don't know if the referendum will pass. She was joined by fellow Councilmembers Dave Stokes and Rick Williams in dissent as the measure passed 5-3.



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