Published: Jul 21, 2014 5:33 PM EDT
Updated: Jul 21, 2014 6:37 PM EDT

CAPE CORAL, Fla.- It's your money, and Cape Coral is already planning on how it's going to use your money on next year.

But WINK News is learning the city's budget is essentially "in limbo." Millions of dollars it could be using is simply sitting in an account, and can't be touched.

A court fight over the new fire assessment is what's holding everything up.  In Cape Coral, what you end up paying in property taxes is directly tied to the fire service assessment.

If the court says the city can use the money, your property taxes could go down. But if a decision isn't made by the city's budget deadline in September, your property taxes could remain the same.

Joe and Elizabeth Martinez have owned property in Cape Coral since the 90's.

They've already paid their fire service assessment fee this year, but believe they should have been able to keep their money, at least for now.

"Cape Coral does a lot of weird things," said Joe Martinez.

"I'd rather that money sit in my bank account until they decide what, and how, they are going to do it all. Why should they get the interest? And keep my money?" said Elizabeth Martinez.

The money they paid is sitting in a city escrow account because some residents went to court to fight the fee. Until the state supreme court makes a decision, the city can't spend a dime, which means the city's budget is somewhat in limbo.

"I think they have the cart before the horse. They want to make sure they have the money before they pass anything," said Elizabeth.

These documents show the city manager is counting on having the fire service assessment fees to work with. That money is to be used specifically for the fire department, and your fire protection.

Next year the city could collect about $18 million from people, on top of the roughly $10 million its already collected this year.

So what happens if the court decides in the residents favor? The fire service assessment fee would be overturned, and you would get your money back.

The city's budget will have final approval from city council, September 18th. There will be public hearings on the matter, before then.


As for the city manager's proposed FY 2015 budget, Cape Coral's roads, some which are cracked and worn, would get $6.5 million worth of work.

Its streets and bus stops that sit dark, would become bright thanks to the re-start of a streetlight program. Those are just two big projects the city has planned if the proposed 2015 budget goes according to plan.

It's based on an increase in property values, and the city's fairly new seven percent public service tax, which you see on your power bill.

The city managers budget also calls for police officers, firefighters, and general workers to receive a 5 percent raise, something that hasn't happened since 2007.