The Oakland Town Commission is lowering its millage rate for the Fiscal Year 2021-22 budget following a pandemic year in which they cautiously kept the rate the same.
The elected officials approved a tentative budget of $27,762,534 and set the tentative millage rate at 6.4 at a workshop and public hearing held Sept. 13. The final public hearing and vote will take place at the Sept. 28 Town Commission meeting.
“We made a commitment to start to lower our millage, and we have kept that commitment,” Mayor Kathy Stark said. “I’m thrilled that we’re able to lower our millage rate once again. … I am very proud that we have been able to do this, and we will continue to try to do this every year.”
The commission has decreased the millage rate from 6.75 in 2018 to 6.65 in 2019 and 6.5 in 2020. Last fall, commissioners elected to maintain the rate of 6.5 mills to counterbalance the effects COVID-19 had on the town and its finances.
Town Manager Steve Koontz said the town has been working to build its reserves in recent years.
The General Fund budget is proposed at $10,039,803, with estimated reserves or unassigned fund balance totaling $725,120. Koontz said property values have increased by 17%.
Increases to the General Fund include an extra $132,000 to Orange County Fire Rescue per the interlocal agreement; salary increases based on performance appraisals; the hiring for a part-time event coordinator; more funding for events; and including the enhanced lighting of Town Center.
In the Utility Fund, the budget is proposed at $6,818,600. There is a projected increase in water and wastewater revenue; a salary increase for staff based on performance; and funding for a full-time utility billing supervisor. Reserves are estimated at $1,500,000.
The Utility Fund includes funding for three grant projects totaling $1.6 million.
The town collects impact fees on all new construction and development, and this money is spent on capital improvements such as roads and public buildings. The FY 2022 budget includes several projects that are the result of the town’s growth: $774,197 for the town’s water system; $347,265 for wastewater; $694,302 for parks and recreation; $177,983 for law enforcement; $2,786,001 for transportation; $203,880 for administrative facilities; and $82,606 for fire protection.
The budget for Oakland Avenue Charter School was approved at $5,837,897 in June. Reserves are estimated at $274,883.
IN OTHER NEWS:
• Two ordinances pertaining to the rezoning and Comp Plan amendment for Oakland Mixed-Used Village — originally proposed with apartment buildings — were withdrawn by the applicant.
• Town Manager Steve Koontz announced about 35 residents participated in a walking tour from the Oakland Meeting Hall to Tubb Street as part of a Complete Streets presentation Sept. 2. A consultant who was part of the tour accepted input and will hold a final public session Sept. 30 before presenting to the commission.
• Commissioners established 8 a.m. Oct. 29 through 5 p.m. Nov. 12 as the qualifying period for candidates seeking to run in the town’s municipal election March 8, 2022.
• Koontz reminded everyone West Oakland Avenue will be closed at the bridge for about a year during Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise’s road-widening project. The street closure begins Sept. 26. Tubb Street and West Colonial Drive are the alternatives.
• The commission proclaimed Sept. 17 to 23 Constitution Week in the town.