The 2017 fiscal year began Oct. 1 for municipalities, and local city managers have been busy the last few months crunching numbers with their city staffs and elected officials to create effective operating budgets. Below are some indicators of how the cities are doing financially and a look at some of the big money projects.
Financially, Leesburg is holding its own, says Leesburg City Manager Al Minner. “Things could always be better and they could be significantly worse,” Minner says, yet he’s pleased that some economic factors are trending toward improvement, such as increases in state shared revenue and the first increase in property values in more than five years. “The creation of the Fire Assessment Fee has provided real opportunity to use reserve cash and create new flexibility to tackle capital projects,” he says. There are more than $1.5 million in capital improvements the city aims to pursue in the new fiscal year, including $560,000 for road resurfacing; $300,000 for road rebuilding at 9th and Dixie; and $100,000 for a median at U.S. Highway 27/Leesburg High School. The city’s proposed budget is little over $153 million, up from $152,142,447 last year.
Minner says the city also wants to continue to decrease and maintain a low electric rate, and move forward on second phase of improvements at Venetian Gardens. So what is the biggest budget challenge for Leesburg?
“Sustainability,” says Minner. “To ensure that the community is moving forward the most impactful investments, while ensuring that those improvements can be sustained for a long period.”
Eustis has seen an increase in property values, population, building permits, and sales tax revenue, according to city officials.
“The city’s overall fiscal health remains strong,” says Eustis City Manager Ron Neibert, who notes Eustis has exercised “fiscal restraint” with expenditures, yet one budget challenge is finding the resources to cover pension and health insurance costs, which have spiked the last few years.
The city’s 2017 budget will be a little over $45 million, and top projects include: Eastern Wastewater Treatment plant expansion, $8 million, will provide new development and expand utility service to customers.
Lakeview water and wastewater project, $2.5 million, involves replacing cast iron water main, manholes, repaving streets.
Replace police vehicles that are more than seven years old, $175,000; purchase of fire pumper truck, $400,000-plus.
Construction of new Skate Park in Sunset Island Park. The $500,000 project to be funded through a state grant, penny sales tax, parks and recreation impact fees.
City streets’ maintenance/improvements, $400,000.
Storm water redesign for Ruleme Street and Ardice Avenue, $300,000. “Eustis will continue efforts to encourage development by implementing businesses-friendly processes and promoting available development sites,” Neibert says. “Developing the former Waterman Hospital property in Downtown Eustis is also a big priority for us.”
Tavares City Administrator John Drury is upbeat about the state of economy in America’s Seaplane City, and reports Tavares is doing well on the financial front.
The city’s budget for 2017 is $41 million, and Tavares has some big projects in the works, including a $10 million Public Safety Complex to be built at the corner of Alfred and Caroline streets, which will house Tavares Police Department, Tavares Fire Department, and emergency operations.
Funds for the complex come from federal grants and Lake County’s Infrastructure Sales Tax—penny sales tax—that was extended last November by voters to pay for public infrastructure and safety equipment. Tavares expects to receive about $1 million a year from the tax.
Drury says Tavares also plans to bury electrical lines downtown, expand the city’s seaplane base by adding recreational boat ramps, pave roads, and add brick pavers on Ruby Street.
“Our roads in our older subdivisions need attention,” Drury says. “This is very costly, but we do have a program to address roads every year.”
Our millage rate is being lowered to the roll-back rate of 3.3962,” Kollgaard says for the new fiscal year. Under Florida law, if a local government adopts the roll-back rate, it’s not increasing taxes.
Lady Lake’s general fund budget for 2017 is nearly $11 million.
The biggest budget challenge for Lady Lake? “
Maintaining a good level of service to our residents at a low cost,” Kollgaard says, adding her town strives to “continue to bring in commercial development, and do more paving projects.”
Lady Lake has budgeted $200,000 to resurface roads. Some additional expenditures budgeted for the new year include: $55,000 for purchase of library books; $208,000 for two marked police vehicles and three marked SUV vehicles; $7,200 for a new scoreboard for Harry Sacks field; $24,000 for replacement playground structure for small children.
City budgets are supported by home values and the values in Mount Dora are “slowly approaching pre-recession values,” says Girone.
“Our continuing challenge is to maintain the needs of the citizens to supply the services they want from their government with the funds available to the city,” he says. Girone praised the city personnel’s ability to work at a high level of proficiency and dedication while also “assisting the council to maintain a stable tax rate.”
Mount Dora’s 2017 budget addresses the goals of residents and council, and calls for hiring of an economic development director or consulting firm “to get Mount Dora kick-started in the right direction,” says the mayor, along with the need to develop infrastructure for future growth.
Mount Dora’s 2017 budget is $43.8 million.