It’s a month and a half until the Sept. 11 budget showdown that will determine how Winter Springs spends its money for the next year, but the city has passed a tentative property tax rate that will remain unchanged, again.
The current tax rate is $2.41 per $1,000 in property tax value, also known as the “millage” rate. For a resident owning a home worth $200,000 of assessed value (note that’s assessed value, not the market value), the city’s property tax would cost $482.
That tax rate is Winter Springs’ portion of residents’ tax bill, which is less than 16% of their total bill. Since Winter Springs contracts its fire rescue services to Seminole County; when included, that brings the total bill from Winter Springs to about a third of the total property tax residents pay.
Winter Springs’ overall rate, including fire rescue costs, is the second-lowest in the county behind only Lake Mary, which does not contract its fire rescue service to the county.
The City Commission and staff spent an extra hour and a half ahead of their regular July 10 meeting talking budget and how to balance it in light of numerous high-priced, looming projects: an expected $100 million wastewater treatment plant overhaul, extending reclaimed water services to new areas, building an under-construction 14-court pickleball facility, and continuing to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Ian.
“We certainly had a challenging year in 2022 with one of the largest natural disasters this city has ever endured,” Interim City Manager Phil Hursh said. “With hard work and dedication from city staff and our consultants we were able to rebuild the city in just six months. This is a true testament to the dedication this city has to its residents.”
Winter Springs’ total proposed budget, which is in its preliminary stages, is $72.7 million – a $14 million proposed increase over the previous year. But with revenues from increased property values boosting tax receipts by 9.3%, the city is still expecting a balanced budget.
“We’ve got a budget that’s going up almost 25%, and we have a balanced budget, but the millage is staying the same,” Deputy Mayor Rob Elliott said, with a tone of confusion to his voice.
Interim Finance Director Donna Bruno, clarifying, said that the city will be capitalizing on increased tax revenues from other sources.
“The ad valorem tax is expected to bring in an additional $680,000,” Bruno said. “We also did a deep dive in our other state tax revenues such as communications services tax, the half cent sales tax, the electric tax and electric franchise fees. We’ve noticed that we’ve been under-budgeting them, so we brought them up to probably more of a reasonable level.”
Commissioner Cade Resnick said that in light of increased revenues and with the city experiencing staffing shortages lately, he’d like to see full-time staffers brought into the city for stormwater management rather than outside contractors.
“When people work for us they have a stronger commitment to us,” Resnick said. “That’s my perspective.”
In the coming weeks the city will hold more budget meetings as it prepares for a more expensive 2023-2024 fiscal year, but Mayor Kevin McCann said the city is in good hands.
“This budget, even with a $100 million wastewater treatment plant, we’re financially one of the top-rated municipal governments in the entire state of Florida; the Florida legislature has said so,” McCann said.
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