The Oakland Town Commission has proposed lowering its millage rate again for Fiscal Year 2022-23. The elected officials approved a tentative budget of $22,410,722 and a millage rate of 6.3, a reduction from the current rate of 6.4 and a continuation of a steady decrease from 6.75 in 2017.
In a presentation to the commission, Town Manager Steve Koontz said property values have increased by 41.5%.
The General Fund, tentatively budgeted at $9,906,581, includes an increase for Orange County Fire Rescue services, which is up $371,453 per the interlocal agreement; salary increases of 4% for town staff, 5% for directors and 4% for the Oakland Police Department; a $500 bonus for staff; an increase in the retirement contribution for OPD; one new sworn officer position; more money allotted for town events; multi-year financing for the HVAC replacement at the Oakland Avenue Charter School; the $85,000 African American Cultural and Historical Grant award for a maintenance plan and project execution at the Historic African American Cemetery; and funding for marketing and branding.
The Utility Fund budget is proposed at $5,526,782. There is a projected increase in water revenue, and the wastewater revenue has increased. This budget includes funding for up to 4% salary increase for staff, as well as funding for multiple projects, including two lift stations, the redundant well, and public safety facility and OACS wastewater connection.
The proposed Impact Fee budget is $5,415,651 and includes the water and wastewater systems, parks and recreation, law enforcement, transportation, administrative facilities, and fire protection.
This town’s overall budget does not include the tentative budget for the charter school because it was approved in June.
The budget meetings will be held at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 12, and Tuesday, Sept. 27, at the Town Meeting Hall.
TOWN UNVEILS NEW LOGO
Town officials unveiled a rebrand that streamlines multiple logos into one strong identification that will be used across all aspects of the town, from letterhead and social media to street signs and gateway signage to uniforms and T-shirts.
“There are several projects where the opportunity to enhance the identity of the town could be realized, including signage, marketing material and the town’s website,” Elisha Pappacoda, administrative services and communications director, wrote in a memo to the commission.
The town set up a Branding Committee and contracted with branding company Alarie Design.
“The committee focused on preserving the meaningful identity tied to the values and character of Oakland while staying close to our roots,” Pappacoda wrote.
The logo spotlights the natural beauty of the oak tree canopy and includes an acorn embedded in the “O” in Oakland.
“This has been an awesome project for Alarie Design, mostly because Oakland is an awesome place,” said owner Joe Alarie. “We had a pretty extensive meeting and interview process. We went to work based on that information.”
The Alarie team was given parameters to follow. The design needed to capture the distinct vibe of Oakland; historic, classic and timeless; sophisticated yet simple; be an ode to nature; and have an ambiance of charm and uniqueness.
A style guide will give town staff direction on how to properly use the logo.
“We just want to make sure everyone looks cohesive,” Pappacoda said. “It’s going to look so much more professional and identifiable. People have pride that they are Oakland residents, and I think this gives them something to wear or own.”
OAKLAND NATURE PRESERVE UPDATE
Jennifer Hunt, director of the Oakland Nature Preserve, presented the annual ONP update and provided attendance and event statistics. There were an estimated 38,000 visitors, about 1,800 student field-trip days, six weeks of full-capacity summer camps, story-time events with children and a variety of hikes.
Events included an open house that drew about 700 people, the Pumpkin Glow with 1,700 guests and a holiday wreath walk that brought in about 400 visitors. Hunt announced two new events: Nature Fest Sept. 24 at ONP and the Oakland Heritage Festival Jan. 28 at Speer Park.
“These are separate events to give both events the attention they deserve,” she said.
A total of 319 volunteers provided 4,616 hours through May, and there are four scouting projects in progress. ONP’s social media presence is expanding as well.
A Youth Climate Project resulted in $20,000 in scholarship funds to four local high school students. It was funded by a local foundation and is being funded again for the 2022-23 school year.
A restoration program including the planting of more than 1,000 trees and more than 3,000 native plants. Projects include the completion of the porch and the addition of three restrooms, and the septic-to-sewer transition is in progress.
“What a great job you and your staff are doing out there,” Mayor Kathy Stark told Hunt. “This will be the finest legacy we leave for generations to come.”
IN OTHER BUSINESS
• The commission approved the consent agenda, which included the adoption of several documents for Oakland Avenue Charter School: a bullying and harassment prevention policy, mental health allocation plan, standard response active assailant protocols and the Orange County Public Schools zero-tolerance policies and agreements with law enforcement.
• Commissioners approved the first reading of two ordinances to change the future land-use plan map and zoning map designations for a .62-acre parcel at 302 E. Oakland Ave. The site will be occupied by a brokerage and property management office.
• The commission approved the second reading of several ordinances that included voluntary annexation, future land-use map and zoning map designation changes to a two-acre plot of land at 17500 Broad St.; and a voluntary annexation of two pieces of property at 17987 and 17979 State Road 438.
• Mayor Kathy Stark recognized town employees for their five- and 10-year anniversaries. Each will receive a service recognition plaque.
Community Editor Amy Quesinberry was born at the old West Orange Memorial Hospital and raised in Winter Garden. Aside from earning her journalism degree from the University of Georgia, she hasn’t strayed too far from her hometown and her three-mile bubble. She grew up reading The Winter Garden Times and knew in the eighth grade she wanted to write for her community newspaper. She has been part of the writing and editing team since 1990.