Cape Coral City Council received a revenue and expenditures update Monday.
The current “sustainability” numbers were a mixed bag.
Revenue from property tax levies were good with most of the money expected already collected.
Cape Coral’s second property tax revenue source — excuse us, fire service assessment, which also flows into the city’s operational, or General Fund, was actually over the budgeted amount by 4 percent.
Tax dollars from market-driven sources, though, were down — way down.
With state mandated closures and restrictions due to the pandemic hitting our service/retail sector hard and so people out of work by the thousands, City Manager John Szerlag tagged three sources of tax revenue with a yellow flag of caution — the Cape’s Communications Services Tax, its tax on electric franchise fees and the share of sales tax revenue.
Mr. Szerlag red-flagged money coming into city coffers from the local half cent sales tax with gas tax revenues also far below projections.
Simply put, taxpayers aren’t buying anything beyond necessities, aren’t driving much, and aren’t cranking up the air.
We can’t afford to.
The local business community has been devastated, particularly here in the Cape where most are small and family owned.
The unemployment rate recognized by the city in Monday’s update was 20 percent.
So we understand why the city administration is analyzing vacant positions and is “highly” scrutinizing and prioritizing” proposed projects and purchases.
City Council’s reaction?
They segued quite nicely into a money presentation of their own.
For a 70 percent bump in compensation.
For Council members.
Because they work hard and they deserve it.
Well, yes they do, and perhaps.
We’ll not debate that now.
Nor will we weigh in on whether the city’s charter should be amended to compensate elected officials based on population, a change that, as proposed by Mayor Joe Coviello, would bump an annual salary of $38,492 for the mayor’s seat and $34,834 for council seats to $68,400 and $55,800 respectively so as to attract “better candidates.”
We will ask a question — two actually — on Council’s decision to devote staff resources to develop the ordinance needed to bring it to referendum and to schedule a special meeting to decide whether it should be placed on the November ballot “so the voters can decide.”
Are you kidding?
And are you listening?
Tone deaf II
In his pitch to justify more money for council members, Mayor Coviello did hit on a salient point: Cape Coral is growing “younger” by the year.
The city’s predominate age demographic is now between 25 and 45 and those individuals should be better represented.
Especially in light of Council’s unanimous vote — also and ironically on Monday — to implement parking restrictions that will have the greatest impact on families and residents in the skilled trades, especially those who reside in what planners like to call workforce housing — i.e. a place where you can afford the rent when you are starting out or, in these times, perhaps starting over.
The Council action taken Monday now prohibits parking on the lawn area in all residential neighborhoods. Residents with multiple vehicles may continue to park along the street, including the grassy right-of-way, but otherwise, residential parking is limited to impervious surfaces only — those with asphalt, concrete or pavers. Supplemental parking on shell, rocks, dirt or stone also is now prohibited for those who made any such improvement to accommodate “overflow.”
Council’s answer to those who protested that families with more than two vehicles would be burdened? Clean out your garage or stack ’em on the driveway.
The new ordinance also closes a “work truck/workvan” loophole by prohibiting the parking of any city-defined commercial vehicle in multi-family zoning districts. Such vehicles previously were allowed to be parked in duplex or other multi-family driveways or lots, but not on the drives of single-family homes.
City staff cited complaints of semis parked across the street from homes and duplexes ostensibly bought for the parking.
The Council-approved solution: No more driving home and parking a van or a pickup that has any of the following visible: tools or ladders, racks, utility boxes or building materials or merchandise.
Not anywhere in the Cape.
Unless you have a garage, which most duplexes and apartments do not.
We’re not sure which is more perplexing — the “improved” aesthetic of cars lined along the roadway, obstructing the sightline of traffic, especially where the swales flood, or the city making parking scofflaws of the just-last-week compliant sub-contractors and other service providers who choose — or chose — to live in the Cape.
So one more question:
Is that the chord the city really wants to strike?
– Breeze editorial