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Final budget hearing continued to Sept. 29

By CHUCK BALLARO - | Sep 23, 2021

The Cape Coral City Council on Thursday continued its final budget hearing to Wednesday, Sept. 29, at 5:05 p.m.

The continuation comes as a result of an error in the notice informing the state of the hearing. The notice contained an error in the tax rate to repay the $60 million voter-approved GO bond for parks.

City Manager Rob Hernandez said the notice the city sent to the state regarding the millage for the GO Bond didn’t match with what Council actually voted on. The notice had the millage set in July, which was 0.1416, and not the one the city council set on Sept. 9, which was 0.075, after the city collected more than what was needed for the debt service repayment.

At next week’s continuation, Council is expected to vote to lower not only the debt service millage but the property tax rate slightly from 6.375 mills to 6.25 and approve the budget, which is set at $978,464,119 overall, with a $296,590,898 General Fund budget.

One mill is equal to $1 for every $1,000 of taxable property valuation.

Hernandez said rather than have any confusion, he decided to move the hearing date. So, at the Thursday meeting, Council voted for the continuance following citizens input. Sept. 29 will still be before the new fiscal year begins on Oct. 1.

Thursday’s meeting also held some complications.

Mayor John Gunter was at the Florida League of Cities meeting and Mayor Pro Tem Jennifer Nelson was not be present. Both participated remotely.

Councilmember Robert Welsh was also absent Thursday.

Jessica Cosden, former Mayor Pro Tem, chaired the meeting.

The notice snafu had been announced at a special meeting held Wednesday.

At that special meeting, the Council also discussed the evaluations of the council’s office personnel and the city manager.

Gunter said he rated Hernandez highly and that he was doing a great job. Many of those on Council agreed, including Councilmember Gloria Tate, who made a motion that Hernandez be given a 5 percent raise.

Hernandez declined.

He said he appreciated the high marks he was given, but for the raise…

“A 3.25 percent raise is as good enough for a city manager as it is for the person who mops the floors,” Hernandez said.

Council didn’t agree but conceded the point.

“You deserve a higher percentage of raise. But this shows the character of our city manager. I’m a firm believer of leading by example and he is doing that,” Gunter said before the city council unanimously passed the 3.25 percent raise.