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Winter Park / Maitland Observer Tuesday, Jul. 24, 2018 2 years ago

Winter Park holds line on property taxes

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The City Commission tentatively set the millage rate at its Monday meeting.
by: Tim Freed Managing Editor

Winter Park City Commissioners made a preliminary vote to stay the course with it’s millage rate, holding the line and setting a tentative rate of 4.0923 mills for the 11th straight year.

The millage rate is the amount per $1,000 of property value that is used to calculate local property taxes, and property tax revenue is the single largest contributor to general fund revenues for Winter Park (39% of total revenues). Every quarter of a mill increase or decrease in the rate would change annual revenue by $1.4 million.

But City Commissioner Peter Weldon said it’s time to mix things up. Winter Park is in healthy  financial shape, and so it makes sense to lower the millage rate and offer residents a small tax relief, Weldon said.

Commissioner Weldon proposed to lower the millage rate to 4.0 mills, which comes out to roughly $510,000 in less revenue for the city.

“I think there’s a point at which we have to respect the taxpayer’s contribution to the successes we’ve had and note that the tax revenues have increased over $6 million in the past three years,” Weldon said. “There’s a point that I don’t think we should spend every penny, especially when we've been able to make such substantial improvements to the city, as well as build our reserves to the 30% standard that we established.”

Ultimately the rate was tentatively approved at the same existing rate of 4.0923 mills by a vote of 4-1, with Weldon dissenting.

Civic Center trees

City Manager Randy Knight also took a moment to update City Commissioners on the possibility of preserving the trees surrounding the Rachel D. Murrah Civic Center. With the facility set for demolition to make way for a new library and event center, resident Todd Weaver approached the City Commission during its June 25 meeting about removing the trees and preserving them for replanting once the new buildings are finished.

Knight told the City Commission that there are 61 total trees currently at the site that would have to be removed. Thirty-two of the 61 trees are in good shape, with 19 of those sitting in the 30- to 40-inch range – costing about $51,000 each to move. Six of the trees falling in the 18- to 26-inch range would cost $24,000 apiece to move, and seven of the trees fall below 18 inches and would cost $18,000 each to move.

“If you did all of those, it would be about $1.2 million,” Knight said. “We’re going to do some more work as far as ranking those. It takes about nine to 12 months to do the root trimming and all the work you need to give them the best chance of survival. If you try to do it fast, you reduce their chance of survival.”

“If the Commission is of the mind to move any or all of these, you’d need to make that decision fairly quickly.”

By comparison, the cost of a new 6-inch tree is about $1,850, Knight said.

City Arborist Dru Dennison also added that while trees won’t be moved unless they have a good chance of survival, there’s no guarantee that they’ll actually survive when they’re moved.

City Commissioner Greg Seidel said that the city should consider moving the most significant trees, like the one directly behind the Civic Center that many couples have gotten married under over the years.

City staff was directed to get more cost estimates on moving the trees.

Mural regulations revised

Winter Park City Commissioners also made a final vote that removed language from the books that restricts the size of murals on the outside of buildings throughout the city.

Before the change, language in the city’s codes outlined that artwork painted on a wall “shall be limited to one single façade only on the first floor on each side directly facing a street and shall not cover more than 45% of the first floor of that wall or signable area.” The City Commission voted to remove that percentage – it was first added to the language back in April when Winter Park updated its sign codes.

Tim Freed was the managing editor for the West Orange Times & Observer and the Southwest Orange Observer. He previously spent six years covering the Winter Park/Maitland area and is a graduate of the University of Central Florida.

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