Nearly a decade after the passing of Seminole County’s One Cent Infrastructure Sales Tax and just after neighboring Winter Springs underwent an audit on penny tax spending, Oviedo city officials met to discuss how the money has been spent, how projects have progressed and what projects are still in the pipeline prior to its possible sunsetting next December 2024.
The tax, approved by Seminole County voters in May 2014, increased the county’s sales tax from 6 cents on the dollar to 7 cents, and earmarked funds to be used for streets, infrastructure and education. While controversy has surrounded the use of the funds in Winter Springs, the Oviedo City Council’s May 24 special session laid out details of how monies generated from the tax have been or are planned to be spent. Renewal of the penny tax is expected to be on the November 2024 ballot.
In a little over eight years, Oviedo has generated more than $20 million through the penny tax, for an average of about $2.4 million per year. This exceeded original expectations of $1.9 million per year before the tax went into effect. The fund currently has $3.4 million available.
“[We] just haven’t been able to spend it fast enough,” Public Works Director Bobby Wyatt said.
Projects already completed through the fund include city-wide street and sidewalk resurfacing; adding a regional stormwater facility (Solary Park); adding adaptive traffic signalization on every signalized intersection along Mitchell Hammock Road from S.R. 426 to Lockwood Boulevard; and updates to Round Lake Park and Oviedo Sports Complex facilities.
Major remaining projects, either already in progress or yet to begin, include:
- The widening of S.R. 426/C.R. 419 from two lanes to four between Pine Avenue and Adeline B. Tinsley Way is under construction. The final phase, which would widen the road east of Adeline B. Tinsley Way to the west of Lockwood Boulevard is currently unfunded. The preliminary estimate for the project was $5 million.
- The sidewalk connectivity project is ongoing, and adds, replaces and reconstructs sidewalks throughout Oviedo to improve walkability around the city. This will be done on Lake Jessup Avenue, Pine Street, North Lockwood Boulevard and other key areas, and has a primary estimate of $3 million.
- Proposed improvements to Mitchell Hammock Road include widening the road to the north and adding sidewalks from Norma Avenue to Westwood Square. The sidewalks are planned to be 6 feet wide, but could be wider if needed, Wyatt said. Find an image for the plan here.
“We can basically put in a true [concrete] median along Mitchell Hammock, which would then allow those U-turn motions to be made,” he said. “It’s also got some directional turns on it as well.
“I think we can make a pretty immediate impact and a safety improvement at that,” he said.
The design for the Mitchell Hammock project is expected to be completed in September. The estimate for the work is $2.5 million. This is an operational improvement that would include public input if it is determined later in the design process, if necessary, Wyatt said.
The original plan for the Lockwood Boulevard traffic circle included adding a roundabout at the intersection with Old Lockwood Road, but a $5 million price tag forced the city to reevaluate the plans. Instead, a dedicated right-hand turn lane from Old Lockwood Road to Lockwood Boulevard going north has been proposed as a solution to free up traffic congestion, in addition to sidewalk improvements.
“We were just trying to figure out how to best use the money,” Wyatt said.
Additionally, the city plans to update the street lights along Lockwood Boulevard.
“They’ve been problematic in a lot of places, but now we’re going to actually be able to upgrade,” Wyatt said. “We were concerned there was going to be a new, additional cost with rental for new fixtures, but no, not for what I’ve been told recently. So that will be coming.”
Public input may also be needed as the process develops, Wyatt said.
Some issues with penny tax dollar spending were discussed during the special session. Council voted to approve an adjustment of funds, since $400,000 was transferred to the city’s general fund between 2015 and 2017 and used for landscaping and mowing maintenance, an incorrect use of the funds. The resolution, passed unanimously, will send the money back to the penny tax fund.
“We can’t spend capital dollars on maintenance items, so the purpose of [the adjustment] is to correct that through this budget transfer so that we can right the ship,” Oviedo Finance Director Jerry Boop said. “I think that was just an error, and it wasn’t caught because it was done on paper, and it wasn’t done using the automated tools that we currently have in place.”
To ensure an incorrect transfer of funds ‒ which officials say occurred due to inefficient internal systems, a then-underfunded general fund and staff turnover ‒ does not occur again, City Manager Bryan Cobb said safeguards have been put into place. Since 2015, the city moved its financial systems from paper to electronic, did a deep dive into state statutes to ensure compliance, and better coordinated its budget and finance team communications.
“I just want to make sure that as we are putting things in [place] and communicating with other people about where the money went that we’re really clear,” Oviedo Mayor Megan Sladek said at the meeting. “I just want to make sure that we’re being completely honest and transparent.”
Watch the full meeting
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