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Body cameras shake up budget

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Winter Springs will be getting body cameras for its police officers after one city commissioner took a hard line to get it into the city’s 2022-2023 budget Monday night.

The $58,744,031 budget, which passed in a unanimous vote, had some last-minute changes compared to the tentative budget, which was passed two weeks before.

Those changes were initially pushed through by Deputy Mayor Kevin Cannon at the city’s previous Commission meeting when he said about police body cameras, “I’m not going to vote for the budget unless we have some definitive commitment, a definitive plan and a definitive commitment in the budget for the next fiscal year.”

City staff in the ensuing two weeks maneuvered the budget to make room for $75,300 for the first year of police body camera system costs.

“I think we all knew it was time and that we had to do this,” Cannon said.

Nearly $49,400 was cut from the budget’s operating costs and the budget’s total amount was increased to nearly $26,000 to allow for the body camera costs.

Of the total budget, $15,555,775 goes toward payroll for the city’s 175 full-time employees, which is a budget increase of 8.1% over the previous year. More than $5.4 million goes toward operating costs, including police, parks and recreation, finance, public works and other departments.

Millage rate

What was not a surprise was the city’s millage rate, which passed on second reading unchanged at 2.41 mills, or $2.41 of tax per $1,000 in taxable property value. The city’s millage rate represents about 15% of a property’s total tax bill per year.

There was a brief discussion about potentially reducing the millage rate to the “rolled back” rate, which would have reduced millage by about 9%, which triggered an outing of the operating millage rates being proposed by cities around the county:

Altamonte Springs – 3.1
Casselberry – 3.5443 (including debts)
Lake Mary – 3.5895
Longwood – 5.5
Oviedo – 5.475 (including debts)
Sanford – 7.3250
Winter Springs – 2.41

“We are proposing the lowest operating millage in the county,” City Manager Shawn Boyle said.

As Winter Springs uses the Seminole County Fire Department for its fire rescue services, properties are also charged an additional 2.7649 mills, as are properties in Altamonte Springs and Casselberry. Boyle pointed out that in total millage, with county millage and special district millages added in, Lake Mary has the lowest rate.

Asked by Cannon if any Seminole County municipality has adopted the rolled back rate, Boyle responded, “I know that, in the last 20 years, that none of the cities nor the county itself has ever applied the rolled-back rate.”

The rolled-back rate is a theoretical millage rate that, if it were applied to the upcoming budget, would result in the exact same revenues as the previous year, ignoring cost increases from inflation or rising wages, etc. State rules require that if a rolled-back rate is applied it would take several years of millage increases before the lost revenue could be recovered, Boyle said.

Asked by Cannon whether adopting the rolled-back rate would be feasible, Boyle said, “I think a rolled-back rate would be devastating, and it would reach far beyond my tenure as a city manager.”

The millage rate vote also passed unanimously, to be formally adopted.

Listen to the full meeting

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