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Cape Coral City Council passes budget

By Staff | Sep 22, 2016

With most of the details already worked out and very few citizens in attendance, it took all of 20 minutes for the Cape Coral City Council to approve the property tax rate and fiscal year 2017 budget Thursday during the final public hearing at city hall.

It might have gone even faster had the council not given the city’s Good Wheels program a second look, deciding at the last minute to give that agency $30,000.

Both the millage and budget were approved by 6-2 margins, with Rana Erbrick and Richard Leon casting the dissenting votes.

“I feel good that we lowered the millage and we’ll look to lower it even more next year,” Councilmember John Carioscia said.

City Manager John Szerlag showed council a slide showing that of the 10 largest cities in the state, only Cape Coral and St. Petersburg were lowering their millage, with the rest holding steady. In Lee County, the millage was going down .10 point.

The millage will be set at 6.75 mills, a decrease of .207 mills from last year, and the General Fund budget will be $195,691,726 (an increase of $549,727 over 2016) from an overall budget of $698,974,062.

What this means for Cape homeowners is that the average tax bite will be about $4 less than last year for someone with a home assessed at $150,000; $939.24 this year as opposed to $943.09, officials said.

The only hiccup in the proceedings was when former city council member Dolores Bertolini spoke during public comment about Good Wheels and questioned the city funding component and providing parking.

“They asked for $30,000 and they got it last week, but didn’t have the full information. That $30,000, we don’t know if they’re going to give them the parking spaces or what they’ll do with the drivers,” Bertolini said. “We haven’t vetted that at all, and there isn’t an insurance company that will cover your car in an insecure lot.”

Councilmember Jim Burch said that although it was a little late in the game, he couldn’t say no, so the $30,000 was added, with a formal resolution to allocate those funds to come at a city council meeting in the future.

Carioscia had no problem finding the money either, even if it won’t come from the $403,000 unexpended from 2016 budget.

“We have an obligation to the health, safety and welfare to the Cape. This program drives our elderly residents to doctor appointments in Fort Myers,” Carioscia said. “It will serve the Cape residents well. I feel good and strong about it. It’s a $700 million budget. We’re talking $30,000.”