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Cape Council sets not-to-exceed property tax rate at current level

July 31, 2018
Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

Cape Coral capped its property tax rate at its current level Monday.

The Cape Coral City Council approved a tentative not-to-exceed millage rate of 6.75, the same as last year. The rate can be lowered as the budget process continues into fall but can not be raised.

The rollback rate, the amount needed to raise the same amount of revenue from property taxes, was set at 6.4402 mills based on the increase in valuation citywide.

A mill is $1 per every $1,000 in taxable property valuation.

City Manager John Szerlag recommended the millage stay at the current rate as it did last year as a result of damage caused by Hurricane Irma and the fact that the city has not yet been reimbursed by FEMA for damage costs.

There was no debate and the motion passed unanimously 7-0. Councilmember Jennifer Nelson was absent from the meeting.

For the next two months City Council will meet with the Budget Review Committee to review aspects of the budget Szerlag proposes for the budget year that will begin Oct. 1

Budget workshops, are planned for Aug. 7 and Aug. 9, at 1 p.m. in council chambers, with an "if necessary" meeting set for August 23. Public hearings are set for Sept. 6 and 20 at 5:05 p.m., also in council chambers.

In other business, there was once again some disapproval of items placed on the consent agenda.

Councilmember Marilyn Stout took issue with the city paying for school resource officers for three privately owned charter schools.

"Some of these schools are not non-profit. They should fund SROs," Stout said. "If they weren't making money, they wouldn't be building more schools."

The schools in question are not part of the city's municipal charter school system but are located within the city limits. They were North Nicholas High School, Unity Charter and Southwest Charter Foundation, all of which have footed some of the costs for SROs now mandated by the state as part of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act. The act requires each public school - which charter schools are - to assign a law enforcement officer at each campus.

While there were some concerns expressed by Councilmember John Gunter on whether these schools were contributing enough, Council voted 6-1 to approve the items, with Stout voting against while affirming her commitment to keeping schools safe. Her position is that charter schools are part of the School District of Lee County, which the safety act makes responsible for SRO funding and compliance.

City Council also got an update on the Southeast 47th Terrace Streetscape project, which is still on schedule to be completed by the end of the year.

Maxwell Spann, director of landscape architecture with CPH Engineering, showed Council the plans they have for the above groundwork for the project, especially the traffic roundabout.

The plans include decorative shrubbery and palm trees, as well as several shade trees, which will take time to grow to provide the shade. Much of the below-ground work, such as stormwater, water lines and fiber optics, has been completed.

Council also moved Gary Eidson from an alternate member of the Budget Review Committee to a permanent member following the resignation of James McQuality. Gene Smith was named an alternate.

Mary Joe Lawrence addressed Council on the problem of the sale of pets born in pet mills and asked the board to consider a ban on retail sales in the city.

"Animals born and raised in these facilities are more likely to have genetic disorders, lack of proper socialization and diseases that may not be detected until after the pet is adopted.," Lawrence said. "Breeding animals are also subject to inhumane housing conditions, lack of medical care, and are disposed of when they reach the end of their breeding cycle."

Council members Rick Williams and Jessica Cosden pounced on the opportunity to bring up a future ordinance to address the issue. Gunter also expressed his approval.

Council also passed several planning and zoning based ordinances, including an amendment to the city's comprehensive plan, that would amend the land-use map from Mixed Use Preserve, Class III, Type D to Multi-Family Residential and from Urban Services Reserve Area to Urban Services Transition Area for an 84-acre parcel west of the Sandoval subdivision.

The next regular meeting of the Cape Coral City Council is Monday, Aug. 6, at 4:30 p.m. at City Hall.



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