'When you have a desirable place to live, people want to move here so unfortunately that comes with the challenge of being able to strike the balance between affordable living and quality of life,' Burnette said.
Updated Sept. 24
The Port Orange City Council approved a proposed millage rate of 4.5254 mills, which is 3.5% above rollback, for the 2020 fiscal year at its first budget hearing on Sept. 11. The city's proposed budget is $116,590,290.
This is a $1.9 million increase in the general fund over the previous year, primarily due to increases in personnel services, Enterprise Resource Planning (new city software systems) and fleet finances. The second public hearing is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 24.
Mayor Don Burnette talked about the budget and answered questions that may help residents understand what went into creating the proposed budget for 2020:
Q: What is the most important thing from the budget people should know?
A: It’s important to know that it executes a promise to deliver on high quality services that our citizens demand. It starts with public safety and runs through parks and recreation. Whether you’re age 8 or 80, everyone has their wants and needs.
Last year we came off a fiscal year where we had two (hurricanes). We had to replace the million dollars and start our reserves back again.
This year we’re at a much more responsible level. Matthew and Irma were both in the same fiscal year. One was at the beginning of the fiscal year and the other was at the end. Last year taxes went up 9.9%. It was substantial and painful.
Q: How is this budget different from others over the years?
A: This year’s budget had to fund pay raises for most of the general employees. We have not had a substantial change in some time so we spent roughly $650,000 in pay raises for the employees in the city. The primary purpose of this budget was to help fund the additional wage increases so we can stay competitive and do what we need to do. We had some good movement for them and it was time.
I want to be fair to our employees and pay them wages that’s going to help us keep positions filled. From a business stand point it made sense and from a people stand point it made sense. Our people work hard.
Q: How has the city been able to save in order to get the millage rate down?
A: It was a lot of nickel and diming because basically we were just about at a 4% increase and we asked him (city manager, Jake Johansson) to go back and squeeze out some more nickels to get to 3.5%.
It is under last year’s rate. It is a 3.5% increase over roll-back but it is a reduction in last year’s millage rate of roughly 2%.
I don’t really want to take a look at last year’s budget as a starting point. I want to look at the budget we need as a starting point, then we’ll figure it out from there.
Q: How did we get to be one of the cities with the fourth lowest millage rate in Volusia County?
A: That’s a very good place to be. You need a good mix of businesses and homes to be able to maintain a balance in the tax rate.
The big box stores we have that are up and down Dunlawton and a lot of the businesses pay a good chunk of taxes allowing us to keep the millage rate down on our residences. Even though people de-cry development, as they go in and shop at those places they have to realize the impact of those. While I don’t like putting more traffic on a road, those places offer services people want and pay a large amount into the tax base which allows us to keep the residential rate low.
Q: How will you maintain balance with the budget?
A: You don’t want too much residential because then you don’t have the commercial goods and services that people need and you also end up with higher tax rates. If you end up with too much commercial base it degrades the quality of life. The balancing act is that the mix of commercial and residential that gives people what they need at an affordable tax rate.
Sometimes those questions of approving a development of some sort don’t always come with great options. Sometimes it might be choosing the lesser of two evils.
When you have a desirable place to live people want to come move here so unfortunately that comes with the challenge of being able to strike that balance of affordable living and quality of life. There are some trade-offs involved with that.
This article was updated on September 24 to correct the millage rate. The correct statement should read "The Port Orange City Council approved a proposed millage rate of 4.5254 mills, which is 3.5% over roll-back, for the 20/20 fiscal year at it's first budget hearing on Sept. 11."