Winter Springs sees first draft of budget

Winter Springs’ budget is proposed to increase by 7.7%, to $58.7 million, in response to economic factors as the city tiptoes toward a full 2023 fiscal-year budget in time for a final vote in September.

“We believe this budget reflects the [City] Commission’s commitment to fiscal responsibility by balancing the needs of the residents and the employees,” City Manager Shawn Boyle said.

Of the $58.7 million, $3.4 million will be committed to repairing, replacing and improving roads and bridges and $2.9 million will go to parks.

“As our sister cities are deciding whether they’re going to close community pools…we’re in an expansion mode,” Mayor Kevin McCann said.

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For the first time in more than 20 years the city’s general fund is debt-free, Boyle said.

Fifteen percent of every dollar that a Winter Springs resident pays in property taxes comes from the city’s millage rate, which is the city’s cut of those taxes. That rate will remain unchanged from last fiscal year, at a steady 2.41 mills. Taxable values of homes in the county are projected to rise by more than 10% in the coming year.

“This is a new historic precedent that we set,” Boyle said. “For the last 13 years this city has been committed to either lowering or maintaining the property tax rate.”

Since about 2010 the city’s credit rating has risen from AA to AA+ and its pension rating has risen from an F grade to an A.

“I can’t be more proud,” Commissioner TiAnna Hale said. “As a mom, I’m beaming.”

Overall, the city’s budget revenues are expected to jump 22.7%. Helping to hike those revenues are more than $16 million in special revenues, the majority of which came from American Rescue Plan Act funding in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

City personnel expenditures are expected to increase alongside that revenue jump, with payroll and associated expenses rising 8.1%, including pay raises in response to employee retention issues and increasing minimum wages. The 2023 budget expects a shrunken staff of 4.45 employees per 1,000 residents, compared to 6.85 city employees per 1,000 residents more than a decade ago.

“After talking to a couple of city managers, we’re actually in a lot better shape than the other cities with the employment rate that we have,” Boyle said.

“There is something special going on in this city,” Commissioner Rob Elliott said. “It’s amazing.”

One of the more visible cost jumps for the city was fuel, which is expected to be up 53% compared to two years ago, to $422,149 per year.

“No surprise, when you go to the gas pump,” Boyle said.

More visible to residents will be increases to water bills compared to previous years.

Customers in 2022 have been charged a rate of $1.65 per 1,000 gallons of potable water, though that rate increases for any consumption above 5,000 per month to encourage conservation. That rate for 2023 is proposed to be $1.79 per 1,000 gallons, or an increase of 8.5%.

Reclaimed water use, which is charged significantly less, at $.96 per 1,000 gallons for 2022, is proposed to increase to $1.03, or an increase of about 7.5%. Those still irrigating with potable water face the stiffest pay rates: $2.21 per 1,000 gallons. That is proposed to increase to $2.39 for 2023, or an increase of 8.1%.

The city is expecting additional ARPA funding in December, Deputy City Manager Casey Howard said. That money will help, in part, to pay for the city’s wastewater plants.

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