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Election 2017 Question of the Week: The city manager’s proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year has been submitted to Council. Please list three things you would cut or add to that proposal.

By Staff | Aug 4, 2017

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. As you review the races, please note that Cape Coral City Council races are non-partisan, citywide elections. This means all registered voters can cast a ballot in each race, no matter party affiliation, no matter the district in which they live.

The fourth Question of the Week is: The city manager’s proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year has been submitted to Council. Please list three things you would cut or add to that proposal.


– Joe Coviello: 1. Proposed budget has a millage rate of 6.5%. Council should adopt the rollback rate of 6.34%. This allows residents to pay the same amount of property taxes they paid last year.

2. Support the proposed Fire Service Assessment (FSA) going from 64% down to 59%. Utilize 2M from reserves to make up difference. We will still have approximately 2.56 months of reserves. It’s required to maintain a minimum of 2 months.

3. Public Service Tax is at 7% and there are expenditures that can be eliminated that will allow us to reduce this rate as well

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– Derrick Donnell: Although it is my desire to enumerate items to cut from the budget to return monies to our pockets, a cursory research of the taxable assessed value history and the millage rate history is conclusive—-We are still in catch-up mode from the fiscal crisis we experienced. The proposed budget utilizes a balanced approach to; 1) return money to the taxpayer 2) fund immediate needs 3) fund economic development and 4) fund capital improvements. Simultaneously, the Council must be vigilant with regards to any unfunded mandates or inhibitory legislation coming from the State. Therefore, I would not cut or add to the budget.

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– Rana Erbrick: I would move to the roll-back rate of 6.344 and support the following changes to the City Manager’s proposed budget:

1. Increase the staffing in the Economic Development Office to attract businesses to Cape Coral.

2. Provide sufficient funding for Public Safety to maintain service level and meet our contract obligations.

3. Reduce all other departments as deemed appropriate by the City Manager without affecting employee obligations or staffing levels to achieve a net reduction of $1.9 million vs. the proposed budget.

These changes would ensure we maintain excellent city services while keeping more money in your pockets.

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– April Freeman: I don’t believe there has been an adequate amount of time to properly break down the new proposed budget. Off hand, I would like to see money set aside to purchase the golf course from DR Horton and would like to increase our budget for public safety.

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– Michael D. Hollow: This question goes much deeper than just this year.

Regarding the budget, I want to see accountability for all Directors and the City Manager. Holding monthly meetings to ensure our spending is on track. Is it a want or a need?

Specifically, this budget cycle. I would like to see the city go to the roll back rate. A true tax break gives the opportunity to allow our residents to support local businesses.

Make an actual investment into our EDO office so we can attract more commercial businesses.

Increase our reserves, especially with the impending increase of the Homestead Exemption and for any shifts in the economy.

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– Kevin Koch: 1. Increase public works spending to finally fix the massive amounts of potholes on our streets.

2. We need to make Sunsplash Waterpark financially viable if the city is going to keep ownership. If we can’t do that then it’s time to sell it to a private enterprise. Losing almost a million dollars last year is simply unacceptable.

3. ?Anyone looking at the budget can see that we go over the intended budget for most items every year. We need a fiscally conservative mayor to promote fiscally conservative ideas so that our citizen’s tax dollars are used efficiently.

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– Daniel James Sheppard III: Response not received by deadline.



– Jim Burch (Incumbent): Mr. Burch has withdrawn from the race; he is no longer running.

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– James Frederick Foraker: 1.) I want the Economic Development budget increased. More staffing and funding so they can actively recruit new businesses. This dept. is understaffed and underfunded. Let’s give them the staffing and funds to do their jobs.

2.) I want to stop paying for outside consultants. Paying consultants is a one-time waste of money. Train the existing employees and the knowledge is retained and used again. I believe in investing in your employees.

3.) We need to spend more resources on our canals. We do very little to maintain one of our greatest assets. The canals need to be on a regular maintenance schedule. The canals are one of our assets we can promote. We can’t promote them if we don’t take care of them.

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– John Gunter: One of my goals for our citizens is to establish minimum standards for staffing involving our public safety. While reviewing the proposed budget for the next three years I noticed only a 1% increase in manpower for the Police Department (3 officers). They were reinstatement positions cut by earlier budgets, not additional personnel. We are a growing city and we must ensure our police and fire personnel grow at the same pace. I am more concerned with the boots on the ground that responds when we call in a time of need. We must raise the level of expectation, and demand these services are set to the highest level, and have the proper manpower to serve our citizens.

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– Graham Madison Morris: At this stage in our city’s budgeting process – I do not feel it is beneficial to the overall outcome to arbitrarily list things I would prefer to cut or add. I am one who places a high value on doing my due diligence, performing critical research, listening to all relevant input, and building consensus. I think it is wise to gather more input from the public and hear the heads of the various departments present their individual budgets AND justify them before I start a list of this kind. Though I will say right now, I am anticipating that continuing to reduce the millage rate is looking justifiable and appropriate.



– Jeffrey Alan Jones: Cape Coral City Manager John Szerlag released his FY 2018 FY 2020 Proposed Rolling Budget, which includes a recommendation to reduce the FY 2017 millage rate by 0.25 mils.

Answer: I would like the millage rate to be 6.60 as proposed. A 3 percent increase in property value will be a positive outcome for all residents.

The city’s General Fund is $208,002,889.

Answer: This budget allows ($6.5 million) for road improvements including $520,000 for alley paving. I would allocate less funds for alley paving and increase streetlight improvements (LED) throughout the city including but limited to stop sign and school bus intersections.

This budget additionally maintains the public service tax at 7 percent, and recovery rate at 64 percent for fire assessment.

Answer: Although fair, I would explore an increase to 7.5 percent therefore increasing the recovery rate for fire assessment. This will increase the estimated revenue to approximately $34 million.

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– Richard Leon (Incumbent): In 2016 when we looked at the three-year budget, the proposed budget outlook for 2018 was to be $667,946,482. In 2017 the projection for the same budget was going to be $699,190,182. Today the City Manager has proposed that 2018 budget to be $841,256,643. First thing I want to cut is the extra funding to develop the models for the three-year budget if it is going to be that much off. The next few weeks we have a process in which the Council will be setting the budget. While my research is just starting in the details of the budget, I feel it is imperative to look to the roll back rate for the fees and taxes. Limit the spending of special projects and focus in on the big three, Public Safety; Parks; Economic Development.

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– Jennifer I. Nelson: 3 things I would recommend:

1. Charter Schools- Since our Charter Schools were awarded money from Govenor Scott, we should consider not subsidizing the administrative costs.

2. Personnel- The personnel costs are budgeted at 100%. We should look at budgeting at 98% to account for attrition and positions that go unfilled.

3. Revenue generation- Keeping the long game in mind, we should do a cost comparison at Coral Oaks to be comptetive with other golf courses. Also, we may want to consider solar power at Sun Splash to keep the park open year round to help reduce the debt service the park incurs. Without debt service and the additional revenue, this could make the park self sustaining.


DISTRICT 5 (General Election ballot only)

– James Schneider: This is a crucial question, and I am not done reviewing the budget to confidently respond. Each line item needs consideration. I will respond to voters upon completion of review. I won’t speak on an important topic without full research.

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– Dave Stokes: At Monday’s City Council meeting, City Manager Szerlag proposed cutting the FSA Fee by 2 million and setting the not to exceed millage rate at 6.5 instead of 6.75. The combined lowering of the FSA Fee combined with a 6.5 millage rate would be the equivalent of using the “rollback rate” of 6.344. I would like to find ways to reduce the amount spent in enterprise funds by reducing costs on the water and sewer capital costs also. These are the 3 areas I could see reducing as long as public safety and UEP expansion is not compromised.


DISTRICT 6 (General Election ballot only)

– John Karcher: Sun Splash – The Budget is $3 million annually but has been subsidized by about $385K each year. Maintain operations, while working on a public/private partnership. Keep it open all year; add improved attractions, make it a true destination with winter options.

Bimini Basin – Eliminate all spending.

Seven Islands – Fast-tracks the 48 acre property using public/private partnership, providing long term revenue. Sell the remaining 400 acres of Thiemann properties to businesses paying a living wage. Run utilities up New Burnt Store Road, for commercial and residential expansion. Shop properties now so businesses can build by the time utilities and NBSR are completed. Endless opportunities.

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– Rick Williams (Incumbent): The budget review process has just begun. I’m researching opportunities to make cuts and shift monies from overfunded activities to some of the un- or underfunded activities to keep a lid of the budget, improve safety, lower tax rates, and limit borrowing. I’d like to increase our police presence for better traffic safety; get more funding for our Parks Master Plan; boost city PR activities, and fund some Youth Council projects. I’ll be looking for cutting opportunities in the council budget and elsewhere as managers explain the reasons behind their requests in the next four weeks.


Important dates

PRIMARY, Sept. 12, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

* Voter Registration Book Closes – Closed Aug. 14

* Early Voting (primary election) -Sept 5-9;

– Lee County Elections Cape Coral Branch Office, 1031 S.E. 9th Place Unit 3

– Cape Coral Library, 921 S.W. 39th Terrace

– GENERAL, Nov. 7, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

* Voter Registration Book Closes, Oct. 10

* Early Voting (general election), Oct. 30-31 and Nov. 1-4

– Lee County Elections Cape Coral Branch Office, 1031 S.E. 9th Place Unit 3

– Cape Coral Library, 921 S.W. 39th Terrace

– 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 Unit 3 A full list is available at www.leeelections.com.