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Editorial | Stipend: When a raise is not a raise

By Staff | Dec 14, 2023

In the face of public outcry in person, via dozens of e-comments, by email and by phone, Cape Coral City Council without discussion among the elected board voted itself a huge increase in remuneration Wednesday.

How huge?

$5,000 per month for the mayor and $3,333 per month for city council members.

In addition to annual salaries of $48,095 for the mayor and $41,920 for council members as of Jan. 6 when they get their voter-approved cost-of-living raises, this budget cycle set at 3.2%.

But don’t call Wednesday’s action “a raise.”

Don’t call it “salary.”

Don’t call it “compensation.”

It’s a STIPEND, city officials emphasize, and so not subject to voter approval.

So let’s call it what it is:

An end run around the taxpayers of Cape Coral.

A legal loophole ploy to vote themselves more money without having to ask their employers — i.e. those taxpayers — for the additional funds.

A shady money-grab they did not even bother to justify, placed on the consent agenda where items not set for any council discussion are parked.

Then left there without a single member of Council pulling not a one of the three resolutions needed to convert the volunteer positions council usurped and converted to (we’re not supposed to say paid) four-figure, monthly check-receiving positions calling for six meetings a year according to the approved meeting calendar.

As well as, of course, the growing duties of their Council positions, though the money “isn’t a raise” for that.

So let us, as the IRS does, call it taxable income which was explored behind the scenes.

Resolution 351-23 cites that the city’s “thorough comparison of similar sized cities within the state of Florida shows that the overall alternative and additional benefits that are afforded to the mayor and Council Members of the City of Cape Coral are substantially lower than other Elected Officials in comparable cities…”

According to the spreadsheet provided to The Breeze as part of a public records request, city staff looked at seven municipalities — Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Hollywood, Lakeland, Palm Bay, Port St. Lucie and Tallahassee — added the base salaries and stipends paid by each, and compared them to the Cape’s salary-only compensation and Council’s arbitrary 75th percentile employee salary goal.

City staff came up with an average “base pay” for mayors of $64,529, plus an average stipend of $6,259 for a total of $70,787. For council members, the average was $43,239, plus a stipend of $5,916 for a total of $49,155.

At the 75th percentile, the top quartile?

Total combined rates of $100,484 and $60,313 respectively.

Interesting numbers so, we guess, Council is doing us a favor, at least this year, though the stipends they will receive retroactive to Oct. 1 are higher — exceedingly higher — than those paid anywhere among their own comparables.

The city’s best argument, aside from they “deserve it” in addition to salary and existing reimbursement of expenses?”

It’s allowable by law and everyone’s doing it, including the city of Fort Myers, which added $14,400-per-year stipends in addition to salaries in April.


We, parents and grandparents all, are familiar with that argumentum ad populum.

Like most, we rejected the bandwagon fallacy back in our kids’ pouty middle school years, and we reject it now.

Just because “everyone” is doing it doesn’t make it right.

For what you can do and what you should do are often not the same thing.

If Council compensation is too low — and we are not saying it is not — this was not the way to increase it, not by any standard, not by any means.

Count us among those appalled.

Breeze editorial


Editor’s note: At the request of a reader who contacted The Breeze, we are adding contact information for members of the Cape Coral City Council:

District 1: William E. (Bill) Steinke

Email: bsteinke@capecoral.gov

District 2: Dan Sheppard (Absent. Councilmember Sheppard said he stepped out momentarily after public comment and so was inadvertently absent for the vote which came almost immediately after citizen input.

Email: dsheppard@capecoral.gov

District 3: Tom Hayden

Email: thayden@capecoral.gov

District 4: Vacant during the voting portion of Wednesday meeting.

Richard Carr was subsequently appointed to fill the vacant District 4 seat Wednesday night. Email: rcarr@capecoral.gov.

District 5: Robert Welsh (Voted nay on the consent agenda.)

Email: rwelsh@capecoral.gov

District 6: Keith Long

Email: klong@capecoral.gov

District 7: Jessica Cosden

Email: jcosden@capecoral.gov