The Oakland Town Commission approved at its July 25 meeting a tentative budget of $19,359,255 and to retain last year’s millage rate of 6.3 for Fiscal Year 2023-24. The fiscal year begins Oct. 1.
Elected officials also set the budget public hearings for Monday, Sept 11, and Tuesday, Sept. 26, both at 6:30 p.m. at the Town Meeting Hall.
Town Manager Andy Stewart made a presentation that broke down the town’s departments, revenues and expenditures. He and finance director Renee Mullen worked together to create a tentative balanced budget keeping the same 6.3 millage rate. At this rate, homeowners pay $6.30 per $1,000 assessed value of their home.
“There was an increase in property values, so it will bring in additional revenues for ad valorem,” Stewart said. “Your revenue estimates, ad valorem, sales taxes are all conservative. (Basically), don’t spend what you don’t have.”
Property values increased by 13.71%, Stewart said.
The General Fund budget was tentatively set at $8,919,363. The estimated reserves or unassigned fund balance is $1,238,214.
Several increases to this fund include salary increases of 4%, two temporary succession planning positions of finance manager and public works manager, a 60% increase in property insurance and liability, roof replacements for Town Hall and Historic Town Hall at $37,500, an increase of about $200,000 for Orange County Fire Rescue funding, replacing laptops for the Oakland Police Department and an RMS/dispatch upgrade of $40,000 per the agreement with the city of Winter Garden.
The Utility Fund budget is tentatively set at $5,132,585. There is a projected increase in water revenue, and wastewater revenue has increased. This includes water metering equipment at a cost of $325,000, grant-funded projects (Lift Station 7 at a cost of $500,000 and the alternative water project costing $2 million) and a utility service worker.
Utility Fund reserves are estimated at $1,611,679.
The Impact Fee Fund is budgeted at $5,307,307 and includes fire hydrant upgrades; water and wastewater improvements; upgrades at Sadler Trail Park; transportation costs associated with the roundabout, as well as Starr Street construction and other road improvements.
Stewart thanked Mullen and the rest of the town staff for their assistance in the budget process.
“It was a team effort,” he said. “We will bring back the final budget in September, and I think it will be another good fiscal year for the town.”
CAPITAL IMPROVEMENTS PLAN
Stewart introduced a new five-year Capital Improvements Plan as part of the budget, and its purpose is to have one ongoing document that puts all potential projects and purchases in one place. He called it a planning tool for the town.
Department heads put together lists of possible needs, large and small, for the next five years. Items on the list can be changed or rearranged by priority. Included on the list are items such as public works equipment, police vehicles, computers, street resurfacing projects and paint projects.
Stewart said Pam Dwyer, principal of Oakland Avenue Charter School, has needs for the students, and there will constantly be improvements needed as the school ages.
“There’s going to be a need for a new public works facility,” he said. “The insulation is coming down, and we need to expand. This has been here the last 50 years.”
Police Chief Darron Esan is requesting newer vehicles, 20 new laptops for officers to use in their vehicles and a speed trailer.
“For 2023-24, the upcoming fiscal year, the (overall) needs are about $5 million,” Stewart said. “We know that’s not possible, but at least we have the needs listed. Those projects will simply slide into 2024-25 or maybe the future.”
The wish list has about $16 million worth of capital requests for the next five years, he said.
Mayor Kathy Stark suggested the staff and commission re-evaluate the list quarterly.
Prior to the commission meeting, the town held an appreciation reception to recognize Vice Mayor Mike Satterfield’s 25 years of service to Oakland.
During the meeting, Eryn Russell, membership program specialist with the Florida League of Cities, read a proclamation to honor Satterfield for his “unselfish leadership” and “significant sacrifices.” He also received the John Land Years of Service Award.
In addition to serving on the commission, Satterfield plays the coveted role of Santa Claus every year at the town’s annual holiday event.
The commission approved the consent agenda, which included the approval of a contract extension with two emergency debris removal companies: Grubbs Emergency Services LLC and National Storm Recovery Inc. The original three-year contracts were signed in 2019 with the allowance of two one-year renewals. This year, beginning Aug. 14, is the final year of renewal.
In his report to the Town Commission, Public Works director Mike Parker wrote: “Hurricanes Ian and Nicole, which ravaged much of Florida in 2022, caused very little damage to Oakland. Aside from minimal property damage to private and public property, the biggest problem we had was debris collection and removal. The town had a reported total of approximately 5500 cubic yards, which was subsequently chipped up and hauled away.
“It goes without saying that the town staff could not have managed the timely removal of hurricane debris without the assistance from these two firms,” Parker wrote.