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West Orange Times & Observer Tuesday, Sep. 18, 2018 2 years ago

Winter Garden commission favors raised millage rate

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City leaders approved the first reading of an ordinance to raise the rate to 4.50 mills at the Sept. 13 city commission meeting.
by: Eric Gutierrez Staff Writer

Winter Garden commissioners voted unanimously during the Sept. 13 commission meeting to approve the first reading of an ordinance that raises the city’s millage rate to 4.50 mills for fiscal year 2018-2019.

Winter Garden Police Chief Stephen Graham took the oath of office from City Clerk Angee Grimmage.

Ordinance 18-29 proposes setting a millage rate of 4.50 mills upon the assessed value of property within the city for the upcoming fiscal year. The proposed rate is 0.25 mills more than the current rate of 4.25, which has been in place for eight years, City Manager Mike Bollhoefer said.

One of the biggest reasons staff recommends raising the rate is to make up for an anticipated loss in revenues attributed to a homestead exemption amendment that will be on the ballot in November. The exemption is expected to pass and would result in $750,000 in loss revenue, Bollhoefer said.

“What the amendment is: They’re going to add an addition $25,000 homestead (exemption) to homes for the value of a home between $100,000 and $125,000,” Bollhoefer said.

Raising the millage rate to 4.50 would generate about $800,000 to the city’s General Fund, which would cover the loss in revenues to the city from the proposed homestead exemption amendment, Bollhoefer said.

“This increase to the millage will actually just make up for the money we’re losing,” Bollhoefer said, adding that the city also will have to fund school resource officers. “We’re also hit this year with another unfunded mandate from the state where we’re now required to put police officers in all of our schools. … It’s our intention to have a police officer at every school in Winter Garden, but that drives up costs. We don’t know what that amount is yet.”

Other reasons cited for raising the millage rate include the city’s growing population and need for infrastructure improvements, among other items.

City leaders also voted unanimously to approve the first readings of three other ordinances related to the city’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

Ordinance 18-30 pertains to appropriating and allocating monies from the city’s General Fund, which has an anticipated total of $38,963,307 available for expenditure. Ordinance 18-31 relates to the allocation of the city Community Redevelopment Agency funds, which total $1,027,850 available for expenditure. Finally, 18-32 authorizes the appropriation of funds for the upcoming fiscal year in accordance to city and state law, according to the agenda.

The second readings for ordinances 18-29 to 18-32 will be Sept. 27. 

Bollhoefer said one of the biggest projects being funded in the upcoming fiscal year is a replacement ladder truck for the city’s fire department at a cost of $1,275,000. 

“It’s critical ... because of the tall buildings we need to have a ladder truck,” he said. “The old ladder truck is getting old, and it’s starting to break down, and we can’t rely on it. Believe it or not, it’s the ladder truck for the region. If Ocoee has a fire at a tall building, we send our ladder truck.”

Bollhoefer added that stormwater projects also would be receiving a 247% increase — from $654,000 to $2.271 million — in the upcoming fiscal year, to fund the capital projects investment initiative in the city’s stormwater infrastructure maintenance.

In addition to the ladder truck and stormwater projects, Bollhoefer said some major road projects also would receive funding. However, the city has not yet chosen which road projects will be funded. Road projects being considered are Story Road, North Street, West Plant Street and Park Avenue, among others.

“We haven’t decided which (road) is the worst,” Bollhoefer said. “We’re going to make the decisions and see how much we have and get engineer estimates.”

If the proposed millage rate of 4.50 mills is not approved and if the proposed homestead exemption amendment is approved in November, funding intended for road projects would be used to make up for the financial impact, Bollhoefer said.

“We would remove those big road projects … for the short-term — that’s what we would do to adjust the budget,” he said.

Eric Gutierrez is a staff writer with the West Orange Times & Observer and the West Orange Observer. He graduated from the University of Central Florida in 2015 with a double major in Journalism and Political Science. Contact Eric at...

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