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Cape Council looks at ‘stipends’ to compensate for additional duties related to CRA board takeover

$5,000 monthly for mayor's position; $3,333 for council members in addition to council compensation

By VALARIE HARRING & MEGHAN BRADBURY - | Dec 9, 2023

A week after holding their first meeting sitting as the South Cape Community Redevelopment Agency Board of Commissioners, Cape Coral City Council is looking to get paid for the duties previous provided by unpaid appointees.

Three resolutions placed on Wednesday’s consent agenda propose to modify the CRA bylaws to convert the uncompensated governing positions into positions compensated with stipends; allow council to determine the amount of those stipends; and set those stipend amounts at $5,000 per month for the mayor and $3,333 per month for city council members, retroactive to Oct. 1, the start of the city’s new budget year.

Placement on the consent agenda means the resolutions pass without discussion unless specifically pulled for discussion by one of council’s members.

According to the most recent numbers posted to the city’s website, the mayor’s position currently is compensated at approximately $45,604 per year. Council member compensation is approximately $40,620 per year.

The stipend will be in addition to council salaries and a portion of the stipend is intended to cover additional duties and expenses council members are incurring due to growth in the city, officials said.

Council voted to dissolve the Community Redevelopment Agency board, letting the commissioners it had appointed go, in November with Council members Tom Hayden, Jessica Cosden and Robert Welsh dissenting.

Council then set a meeting schedule for the CRA meetings for 2024 at which they will consider redevelopment agency business. The approved dates of the meetings to be held at 9 a.m. are Jan. 17, March 13, May 8, July 17, Sept. 11, and Nov. 13, also Council workshop meeting dates.

At least one of the members who voted against the disbanding of the Cape Coral Community Redevelopment Agency Board of Commissioners is in favor of council now receiving a stipend for taking over the previous unpaid duties.

“This is something I will support,” Hayden, who was reached by phone Friday, said.

He said the discussion about a stipend began because Cape Coral is a growing city and the demands on the council members have changed over the last 15 to 20 years.

The remuneration – a stipend – is allowable under the city’s charter, while compensation — salary – would have to go out to the voters to be approved.

Both amounts are comparable to cities of comparable size, Hayden said, adding that the stipend amounts will help close that gap a little more.

“How can we rectify it in a way for council members to receive a stipend to help cover expenses that are brought on by a city growing as rapidly as ours knowing the demands are higher,” Hayden said, of why the stipend, which is allowed by state statute and implemented in other cities. “I had to take another job – the stipend will make it easier for me to dedicate more time to the job.”

The former chair of the CRA governing board, previously composed of appointees with interests within the district, said the council-disbanded board, and the public, are due some answers.

“We who served on the CRA board of commissioners have been doing so as volunteers who worked, and gave back to the community,” said Linda Biondi, a Realtor with Raso Realty, one of the first businesses in the city’s original downtown, now re-dubbed the South Cape. “We were not compensated as per Florida Redevelopment Rules. We were unseated by this council for no reason, with no warning or explanation who now want to be compensated. I think this needs to be explained to those of us who served as well as the public who will be paying this increase in salary.”

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