OCOEE — A majority of the City Commission on Sept. 17 adopted a new budget and a property tax rate of 5.6 mills for fiscal 2015.
This rate will generate $9.9 million in revenue, Ocoee Finance Director Wanda Horton said Sept. 18. Fiscal 2015 starts Oct. 1.
The new rate is 2.6% lower than the current rate of almost 5.8 mills and 1.87% higher than the rollback rate of 5.5 mills. The rollback rate is the rate at which the current tax base — with higher property values — would produce the same taxes levied as the prior year.
Earlier this month, the commission approved increasing the city’s annual, non-ad-valorem fire-protection assessment from $27.50 to $69.50 per net fire protection unit. This “fire fee,” which first took effect a year ago, is imposed on assessed properties in Ocoee. In fiscal 2015, it is expected to generate about $1.9 million to help pay for fire-protection services, facilities and programs.
“We’re attempting to decrease the millage rate to compensate for increasing the fire fee,” Commissioner Rosemary Wilsen said at the Sept. 17 meeting.
The commission discussed how some of the money generated by the higher fire fee could free up general fund revenue for bonding purposes related to the city’s ongoing strategic-visioning process.
For example, the city could potentially borrow millions of dollars to pay for sewer lines that would replace old septic tanks in downtown Ocoee and westward to State Road 429. Such improvements would help attract new businesses to Ocoee, Commissioner John Grogan said.
Wilsen agreed, saying the infrastructure at Bluford Avenue downtown is in terrible shape.
“No business will come in when you don’t have the proper infrastructure in place,” she said. “It’s time we as a city come forward and entice new businesses to the city.”
One of the largest expenditures in the new budget is a $540,000 purchase of an unused piece of downtown property at McKey Street and Kissimmee Avenue.
This property, which is a slightly larger than an acre, currently includes two empty office buildings joined by a breezeway in the front. The structures previously housed a real-estate office and a community outreach call center.
“(The site) is in a key location, on the main connector to the (State Road) 429 corridor, and (the purchase) seems like a good thing for us to do, to have more influence on that property,” city Support Services Director Al Butler said Sept. 18. “It’s part of our strategic-plan efforts to develop the downtown area.”
Plans for the property haven’t been finalized, but Ocoee officials are considering using the site for existing city offices that need more space, he said. Another possibility is removing the two empty buildings and leasing the property for new businesses, Butler said.
The commission will discuss potential uses of the property at a future strategic-planning workshop.
Also at the Sept. 17 meeting, a majority of the commission approved a 2.4% pay increase for non-emergency city employees. The increase totals $63,000.
Other new budget expenditures include:
• $56,000 for new “traffic calming devices,” aka speed bumps, in several areas
• $45,000 in improvements to Ocoee Cemetery
• $25,000 to resurface the Lakeshore Center’s parking lot.