Editor’s note: This article originally reported a 5% staff salary bump in the proposed budget but the city had decreased that to 4%. The article now reflects that change.
It could cost more to get a building permit in the City of Oviedo after the City Council gave staff the green light to bring a proposed permit fee increase to a public hearing later this month. The fee has been stagnant since 2007.
The measure is part of a string of moves to trim the city’s budget and increase its revenue stream – something Council requested after staff recommended a property tax rate of $5.48 per $1,000 in property tax value, which is an increase from the city’s current rate of $5.28.
For a resident owning a home worth $200,000 of assessed value, the city’s property tax would be $1,096 (a $40 increase from last year).
Many Oviedo residents requested that the Council come up with more creative ways to trim the budget when they packed City Hall in June to oppose a proposed fire fee, which would have charged city property owners a fee based on building square footage. The fee would have meant an increase of hundreds, or even thousands of dollars, on property owners’ tax bills. The Council voted unanimously to reject the fee.
“We kinda got a taste for what Oviedo’s appetite is for (budget) increases,” Deputy Mayor Bob Pollack said. “We have to roll up our sleeves and make some tough choices in the future.”
At each budget meeting this summer the staff has presented cost-saving or revenue-inducing measures, including the elimination or altering of certain city-funded events and athletic programs. Staff also suggested reallocating $2.5 million earmarked for a new community center in favor of a $21,000 repurposing of the existing Riverside Community Center multipurpose room to accommodate senior-specific activities, which has since moved forward.
Pollack said that the city always proposes cost cuts during budget season but that this Council has pushed staff harder recently to cut expenditures and to increase the transparency of the process.
“We really want people to know where we sit and that we’re not just writing a blank check and that we’re not spending money frivolously. If we don’t have the revenue then we just need to cut back,” he said.
Building permit fee
The city’s building permit fee was established in 2007 and has not increased since, even as the cost of providing permit services has, City Manager Bryan Cobb said. If the increase is approved, the fee for a building permit for a typical three-bedroom, two-bathroom home would jump from $1,665 to $2,152.
“The fees should cover the cost of service,” Cobb said.
Here’s a description of the fees and a comparison the staff created of Oviedo’s proposed fees and the fees other cities in Seminole County charge.
Furthermore, Cobb said the fee was reduced by 20% in 2012.
“Let’s correct that,” Councilman Keith Britton said.
One of the biggest year-over-year increases in the city’s general budget are city employee salaries, which jumped by $1.2 million from last year and includes seven additional full-time employees. Oviedo Finance Director Jerry Boop called it the biggest increase in staffing since he became director 11 years ago.
In comparison, salary totals increased by $173,000 from 2019 to 2020 and $803,000 from 2020 to 2021.
Staff documents said that nearly $33 million has been taken from other areas of the budget to pad the public safety budget since the Great Recession in 2008, including a reduction in staff from nine full-time employees per 1,000 residents in 2007 to seven per 1,000 this year.
The hike also includes a proposed 4% salary increase for all city employees in reaction to staff turnover in recent years reaching 22%. In addition to the proposed salary increase, the city’s minimum wage was recently increased from $13 per hour to $15 per hour on Aug. 1.
Some significant capital improvements are in the proposed budget as well, including three police vehicles, four public works vehicles and one Recreation and Parks Department vehicle, totalling $505,000. This is in addition to $1.1 million in vehicle replacements funded by federal Covid-19 relief dollars and $1.1 million in vehicle replacements from the city’s utility, water and sewer funds, which is separate from the city’s general fund because it’s funded by service fees.
A preliminary tax rate adoption hearing is scheduled for Sept. 8 for the rate and budget and a final adoption hearing is scheduled for Sept. 19. The public is able to attend. Those who can’t attend but want to weigh in can contact their elected officials ahead of time.
Watch the Aug. 22 Oviedo City Council meeting: