Question of the Week, Week 3 – Fire Assessment
City Council candidate question of the week
Each week through the primary, The Breeze will ask the candidates for Cape Coral City Council an issue-related question. In the interest of fairness, each candidate is limited to the same amount of space, about 100 words, for their response.
How would you have voted, or did you vote, on moving forward with the Fire Assessment: FOR or AGAINST? Why?
DANIEL (DAN) ASHBY
I would have voted no. As a business man I understand the need for revenue diversification, but this was not revenue diversification. This was a tax on the citizens of Cape Coral. The council has lost the residents’ trust because they were promised a one mil reduction and now that will not happen this year. A credit is too easy to take away. When government gets itself into trouble it should not go to the pockets of its residents. We must look to bring in new business to the city that will help take the tax burden off the citizens.
ALAN (AJ) BOYD
I say NO More new Taxes for our “current” citizens. We do need tax diversification but it would have been nice if it was taxing neutral in its first year. Only reducing the millage 1 mil and charging $20 million in its first year to our “current” citizens just isn’t right. Are we talking about tax diversification or are we talking about how to take MORE money from our “current” citizens? Two totally different subjects. If the city is moved forward and marketed properly, as I will do, it will bring in “NEW” businesses / citizens which in turn brings in “NEW” money. We just can’t keep taking from the same people over and over.
DAVID P. CARR
As a certified public accountant I look at taxes and assessments differently then most people. This attempt by the city for a revenue stream will cost the city tens of thousands of dollars, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Ask yourself, who was being taxed? Then who will be taxed?
The answer is I am out of words and I need to pick up my groceries.
I would vote NO! The assessment will be found to be unconstitutional and the problem of funding the huge short fall in fire pensions will still not be addressed. A better future for all!
VINCENT A. CUMMINGS
I would have voted for approval of the Fire Assessment Fee. The Cape Coral Fire Department (FDCC) must depend upon reliable equipment whenever called into service. Insurance Service Office (ISO) ratings, which heavily influence homeowner and renter policy rates, are set on quick response times. Taking engines out of service, due to longevity and maintenance issues, have placed Human Life and Personal Property at risk. The capital needs of the FDCC must be funded as a matter of sound public policy.
MARNI LIN SAWICKI
I support the Fire Assessment in conjunction with the PST and Millage Reduction as a means of further diversifying our revenue. The goal is to reduce the dependency on our ad valorem taxes, which tend to fluctuate from year to year. Since 2008, when our property values plummeted, growth has been halted and critical infrastructure maintenance has been neglected. The assessment allows the city more flexibility within the budget to ensure we have adequate funding set aside for emergency services that are not dependent on the rise and fall of our property values.
JOHN J. SULLIVAN (incumbent)
I did not vote to bring the Fire Assessment Tax forward. We need true revenue diversification. True diversification creates new revenue streams not more taxes from the same residents and businesses. If we are to succeed as a city we must diversify our economy. We must bring in new businesses and create jobs. Raising taxes and fees weakens existing businesses and deters new businesses from opening. It also stops new job creation. Many of our residents are out of work and are struggling. These taxes are a devastating blow to many of our residents.
District 1 – PRIMARY
JAMES (JIM) BURCH
Nothing new here, I opposed the fee in 2009 as well as the PST and CST fees. I understand that the City is looking for stable revenue streams and, to that degree, I will support this attempt only because the millage rate will be reduced proportionally and something must be done. As Mayor, I worked hard on the 2009/2010 budget to bring spending in line with revenues and made the biggest spending reduction, ($177 million to $137 million), in the history of the City without using dwindling reserves. This Council continues to balance its budget on reserves and unfunded balances, jeopardizing our future, just to proclaim “no new taxes,” (disingenuous at best). Four years is enough time to bring new ideas to the City, “not just NO.” Let’s move forward.
STEVEN L. GOLUB
I am naive, tell me why is there an extra tax for “Fire Protection?” It is time to play hardball. The Cape seems to be driving full time residents into a corner. My answer is to tax the snowbirds extra. We can raise money by making the “BIRDS” change to local plates after 30 days. Enforce extra taxes if the Florida home is not occupied 184 days a year. During “BIRD” season local businesses hire a few people for a few months. Investors are making their money and in the interim the Cape is becoming a “Ghost” town 8 months a year. “BYE BYE BIRDIES.”
DAVID R. HEADD
Our city manager keeps talking about the four pillars of revenue for stability. Are we forgetting the phone tax, the internet tax, the gas tax (which should be used to pave our roads) and several more that do not come to mind? If we keep adding legs, it will be the caterpillar of revenues, instead of the pillar of revenue. This brings us back to my original premise of: here a tax, there a tax, everywhere a tax tax. We must create a long term financial plan to understand where we are going and what revenue we will need to get there. I am perplexed on how we can create a budget when we don’t even know where we are going to be in five years. I understand that our infrastructure needs attention and therefore I am worried when we spend almost $14 million on land speculation instead of our infrastructure. Let’s not hit the EASY BUTTON (a new tax), every time we see something we want.
GRAHAM MADISON MORRIS
For myself it is not a simple matter of being for or against the fire assessment. I am rather skeptical about any strong reliance on the timely success of the bond validation process and what effect it will now have on council’s ability to proceed as planned with reducing the millage rate. As much as the courts uphold the law they hold things up; possible objections or appeals to the assessment may prolong this timeline thus only serving to further complicate the council’s current efforts for revenue diversification while ever increasing the likelihood that we will see a negative impact on the public’s confidence and trust by how it is implemented.
District 4 – GENERAL ELECTION
CHRIS N. CHULAKES-LEETZ (incumbent)
I have voted no for the current plan and policy as of this printing. We have not been offered the proper assessment option to match our Fire Service model. The current plan will not survive the proposed validation process once the facts are presented in court. Ultimately, we will inappropriately spend a great deal of taxpayer money on attorneys if this course of action is continued. Feel free to call me for more details.
I am for the fire assessment to allow for the final step of diversification of our tax base. However it is my opinion that the city should not be issuing the assessment to the residents mid budget year. Council should adjust the millage appropriately to account for the PST and allow the fire assessment to go through its process this year and implement it starting with the 2015 budget so the assessment may be put on the tax bill properly. Then the millage can be lowered even further than the promised 1 mil due to the full system in place and the rise and growth of properties.
District 6 – GENERAL ELECTION
KEVIN M. McGRAIL (incumbent)
The fire service assessment is the third and final leg of the diversified revenues for a sustainable Cape Coral. I voted to support this assessment and the “ready to serve” methodology. This will equalize fire services throughout the City and allow for vital response times to be honored no matter your neighborhood location or population. It will also involve empty lot owners in helping to fund these vital services throughout the City. It is a custom made solution to funding fire services in a preplatted community like Cape Coral.
RICHARD (RICK) WILLIAMS
At this point in the process, I would reluctantly vote “Yes” for the Fire Assessment. Had I been on City Council when this assessment was originally conceived, I would have worked harder than they did to investigate viable alternatives, including deeper cost savings-even though we did not yet have the proposed budget or know our expected revenue. The City is now in a position where it needs a limited revenue boost to restart road paving, maintenance, and other capital improvement programs-plus ensure we don’t need to look for more staff cuts. However, I would also aggressively hold the City Manager to his agreement to seek a reduction of the millage rate as increased ad valorem taxes from growth increase revenue.
Voter registration, early voting
* Voter registration:
Applications are available
online at www.leeelections.com,
at all Lee County libraries, and other locations including Cape Coral City Hall at 1015 Cultural Park Blvd., Cape Coral Chamber of Commerce at 2051 Cape Coral Parkway, Department of Motor Vehicles offices, and all Lee County Supervisor of Elections offices including the one in the Cape at 1031 S.E. 9th Place, Suite 3. A full list is available at www.leeelections.com.
* Early voting locations:
– Lee County Elections Cape Coral Branch Office 1031 S.E. 9th Place, Suite 3 (behind the Lee County Government Center).
– Lee County Elections Main Office at the Constitutional Complex in Fort Myers at 2480 Thompson St., third floor.
* City of Cape Coral
Primary Election: Sept. 10
Voter Registration Book
closes: Aug. 12
Early voting Aug. 31, Sept. 3-7
* City of Cape Coral
General Election: Nov. 5
Voter Registration Book
closes: Oct. 7
Early voting Oct. 28-31, Nov. 1-2.
Cape Coral City Council races are non-partisan, citywide elections meaning registered voters can cast a ballot in each race, no matter party affiliation, no matter the district in which they live.