Cape Coral restructures pensions and budget

CREATED Mar 25, 2014

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Pay cuts for employees and payments for homeowners. Those are just two of the changes you'll see in Cape Coral as the city re-structures its budget this year. Many of you contacted us confused about the tax bills you're getting in the mail. The first change is payments, as in homeowners property taxes. It's called the "Fire Assessment Tax" and for the average property in the Cape it's $150 a year. The second change is a pay cut. Firefighters have already taken them, not just in salary but in retirement pensions.

"We haven't received a raise or an increase or a cost of living, anything in seven years," said Eric Chudzik, the president of the fire fighters union in Cape Coral. "We have not received a pay increase of any kind whatsoever. Actually, we took a pay reduction two years ago of five percent".

So here's the way the new restructuring works - Currently there's a "General Fund". Some of it goes to fire, some goes to police and the rest goes to what we'll call "other". This is public works, parks and recreation, and city employees. The way it's now been restructured, there's still the "General Fund" and there's still the same amount of money in the General Fund. But, fire's taken out of it. So, some money goes to police and some to the "other" departments. That means since the total amount in the General Fund hasn't changed, police and fire will each get more money.

Now, there's also a separate new fund called the "Fire Assessment" tax you'll pay. But not all of it goes to fire, just 73 percent. The rest goes to the "other" departments. So, yes, your taxes are going up by about $150 for the average value of a Cape Coral property. But not all of it goes to the fire department.

(Culbreth): So, no new trucks and all that kind of stuff? If people are wondering so what's the $150 bucks about? "If that's in our budget and that's what the chief decides to do as an item on his budget then that's already budgeted for," explained Chudzik. "We have a budget that's already years ahead of where it is right now".

Also changing is the pensions or retirement system of every Cape Coral employee. They say that over the next 25 years, this new system will save the city $74.5 million in police pensions, $65.5 million in fire pensions and $50 million in other city employees pensions. That total is $190 million the city will be saved in pensions as a result of these new changes.
Chudzik also added that all of this is a result of a years worth of negotiations with the city manager and city council.