WINTER GARDEN — Winter Garden commissioners approved unanimously a budget of more than $30 million for the next fiscal year while keeping the millage rate flat at 4.250.
The budget represents no increases in taxes.
The commission passed the first reading of the budget ordinances. They will become law only after passing a second reading at the next City Commission meeting, Sept. 24.
City Manager Mike Bollhoefer discussed some items he said generated questions from several commissioners. He said $400,000 of the $500,000 budgeted for street improvements was currently reserved for a redesign of Plant Street around the West Orange Trail. Winter Garden has applied for a grant to cover the rest of the cost. If the city doesn't receive a grant, the money can be spent on other capital projects such as redesigning Dillard Street.
He said an increase in city cemetery fees was designed to create a fund to cover perpetual-care costs after the last plot is sold. The goal is to put enough money in reserve to enable the interest on the reserve fund to cover the annual costs. If no fund existed, taxpayers eventually would need to pay the care bill out of city funds whether or not they owned a cemetery plot.
Commissioners unanimously approved the contract with the city firefighters union. Both city officials and firefighters praised each other for what they called a "professional" negotiation. The new three-year contract begins Oct. 1.
"We're very proud to say we work for the city and the fire department of Winter Garden," said Winter Garden firefighter and union local President Jason Schneider said. "We think it's the best one around."
The commission awarded DeWitt Excavating more than $5 million in contracts to complete three different projects: improvements to the Park Avenue and Smith Streets storm water systems; intersection improvements at the Avalon Road and Marsh Road/Stoneybrook West Parkway; and intersection improvements at Avalon Road and Tilden Road.