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Cape Coral City Council discussed April 11 a referendum for voters to decide if the mayor and Council can establish salaries and compensation through ordinance. 

The proposed referendum comes nearly four months after Council approved a resolution establishing an annual stipend for the mayor and council members. The resolution states the mayor will receive a monthly stipend of $5,000, and each council member will receive a monthly stipend of $3,333. 

City Attorney Aleksandr Boksner evaluated a number of municipalities for a frame of reference when drafting the language for the November ballot. He described the proposed language as stricter than others reviewed, requiring Council, if passed, to have a more in-depth discussion on compensations. 

Approval of the stipend prompted citizens to speak in opposition of the decision at nearly every meeting following approval because it was approved on the consent agenda with no discussion. 

With the proposed referendum, the stipend would be eliminated, Boksner said 

Council members suggested adding a nottoexceed amount in the language. 

“The way the language is written now and taking it to ordinance pretty much gives Council carte blanche on setting whatever salary that they want for council members or for the mayor,” council member Tom Hayden said. 

Council member Richard Carr said with the proposed language, the approval of compensation still comes back to the hands of Council through an ordinance.  

Mayor John Gunter said the language was too ambiguous. “Some people in the community didn’t like the process with the stipend and we kind of dictated what our salaries are,” he said. “If that’s our motivation here is to try to stipulate exactly what our salaries are, this referendum doesn’t do that. If anything, it gets us back to where we are already. Sure, there’ll be public comment and public hearings, but I just don’t see this getting us any different than where we are right now.” 

The consensus from Council was to modify the language and continue discussion at a future Committee of the Whole meeting April 24.  

The challenge Boksner is now faced with is summarizing how the ordinance will take place, when it will take effect and a maximum salary into the 75-word limit that is legally required for the ballot. 

The next meeting would be a drop-dead date for the proposed referendum. “If I don’t have five [votes], and I know that it’s a difficult endeavor, but if there isn’t five, then there really is no ability to move forward,” Boksner said. 

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