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Council looks at dip in property tax rate but stops short of rollback

By CHUCK BALLARO - | Sep 14, 2021

Pexels image/Karolina Gradowska

Cape Coral property owners will get a tick back on the city’s property tax rate but are still looking at a boost on the their tax bills due to an increase in property values citywide.

The Cape Coral City Council on Thursday set the tentative not-to-exceed rate for the general millage as well as the Go Bond millage lower than what was recommended at the start of the process as well as set the tentative City budget for Fiscal Year 2022.

Based on changes submitted by City Manager Rob Hernandez, Council voted 7-1 to reduce the millage from the current 6.375 mills to 6.25, which will mean $2.2 million less for the city’s General, or operating, fund. Also at Thursday’s first budget hearing, Council tweaked the Parks GO Bond rate from the recommended 0.1416 mills to 0.075 after the city collected more than what was needed for the debt service on the voter-approved $60 million bond.

The rollback rate — the rate at which the property tax portion of a tax bill would remain the same despite an increase in valuation — is 5.9962 mills. The city’s Budget Review Committee had recommended the rollback rate; the city’s administration formulated its submitted budget at the current rate of 6.375. Council came in in between.

One mill is equal to $1 for every $1,000 of taxable property valuation. Because the city has seen an overall increase in property valuation of 10.88 percent, the 6.25 millage rate would result in the city receiving approximately $8.7 million more in property tax revenue and result in a bump in taxes on all properties whose value went up since the last valuation roll. 

In a meeting that lasted about 40 minutes, City Finance Director Mark Mason showed Council two staff options: either keeping the rate as is, or dropping it to 6.25, the latter of which would result in cuts from the proposed — and much discussed — budget for the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.

Staff addressed the proposed hiring of personnel to save the $2million-plus reduction in revenue at the lower rate. New position hirings will be staggered throughout the year instead of hired all at once when the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

The city will hire the six new firefighters, fire lieutenant, and two custodians in the fourth quarter of the year, as well as hire the fire quartermaster and logistics specialist in the third quarter.

The 15 new police officers, senior accounting assistant and an arborist would be eligible for hiring on Dec. 1, or for 10 months of the fiscal year.

More than half the $2.2 million reduction would go toward postponing the construction at Jaycee Park, while leaving in the design costs.

Most Council seemed satisfied with going to the 6.25 rate, except Councilmember Tom Hayden, who said he didn’t want to be locked into the lower rate when there is still one more meeting, and so one more opportunity to do so, ahead.

Hayden was the lone dissenter on the vote for the millage and budget, which was set at $978,464,119 overall, with a $296,590,898 General Fund budget.

The second public hearing will be Thursday, Sept. 23, at 5:05 p.m. at City Hall, where the millage and budget will be approved.

The hearings are open to the public. City Hall is at 1015 Cultural Park Blvd.