September 30, 2010
I have never before had reason to tell you about a unanimous decision of the Winter Park City Commission that I strongly agreed with. I have a reason now.
Unfortunately and unwisely, the commission decided in their budget decisions to provide for the possibility of increasing their pay ($200/mth for commissioners and $250/mth for the mayor) which has not been changed since my mother changed my diapers. This is virtually all the Orlando Sentinel had to talk about (here also) and it sends a very incomplete message.
We should be focusing on the bigger picture.
All Winter Park citizens should thank the city manager for recommending a budget that kept the tax rate constant while faced with declining property values, resulting in lower property tax revenue. City management made this recommendation knowing it required further cutbacks for city employees.
All Winter Park citizens should thank each member of the city commission for accepting the budget proposed by the city manager and then asking to remove an additional million dollars in spending to further boost the city’s depleted reserves. These were unanimous actions by our commission.
This means that while some may see a slight increase in their 2010-2011 Winter Park property taxes depending on their assessment and Save Our Homes status, overall, the property tax revenue claimed by the city will decline by about 9 percent and unrestricted city reserves are now expected to increase from less than $2,000,000 in September 2007 to over $8,900,000 by September 2011.
Restoring reserves has been a critical priority for the city since they were severely depleted by the 2007 legal settlement over the city’s refusal to proceed with the previously approved post office redevelopment. Reserves are critical in providing for hurricane impacts and other uncontrollable events, and offer much needed flexibility in executing long term plans.
This unanimous outcome is somewhat unique among political bodies and clearly indicates that our city management and commission have the correct financial priorities for Winter Park. On this most critical of issues they are representing our long term best interest and doing so unanimously.
Now, we need to make progress on fixing our flawed Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Code policies so we can build our tax base in a way that is compatible with the character of Winter Park.
Regards, Pete Weldon