Mount Dora City Council held its second in a series of budget workshops on May 23rd.
We build our city's budget following several guiding principles. These include; Maintaining our City's infrastructure, Maintaining the public's safety, Compliance with all federal, state and local laws, and Retaining employees by providing competitive pay and benefits.
Two increased service levels will be considered for the upcoming budget year.
1. There is a proposal to hire a part time arborist at the cost of about $30,000 to continue to improve our efforts to take down dangerous or diseased trees on city property and to properly replace them.
2. There is a proposal to add a street sweeping machine dedicated to the downtown CRA area at a cost of about $210,000 and hiring a 20 hour per week street sweeper operator to run it. This new street sweeper would be paid for by the CRA and not included in the general fund budget.
FYI, our millage rate for the city over the past 10 years has ranged from a low of 5.6667 mills in 2013 and 2014 to a high of 6.3000 mills in 2018. For the past 2 years our millage has been set at 5.9603 partially because of our receiving supplemental Federal Cares Act Funds in 2020 and America Rescue Plan funds in 2021.
We don't yet have figures from Lake County for this year but we think that our Gross Taxable Values will increase by about 5%. We should have the actual increase figure within the next month.
The elephant in the room this year is inflation. Through April, the CPI, or inflation rate is up 8.3% year over year. We expect that trend to continue.
Due to growth we may need to add a Senior Planner and possibly 3 part time police dispatchers but nothing has been decided yet.
We will continue to meet over the next several months to develop a budget that will meet our guiding principles mentioned above while at the same time protecting our citizens from big tax increases. It's always a juggling act. You can count on lots of discussion of the data moving forward.
I forgot to include a quote to my last report and I apologize. To make it up to you, I've got 2 budget related quotes today.
The first is by Phil Gramm. "Balancing the budget is like going to heaven. Everybody wants to do it, but nobody wants to do what you need to to get there."
The second quote is from Dave Ramsey. "A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went."
The May 17 Mount Dora City Council Meeting had several items that I think you might be interested in hearing about. I've selected a few of them. Please keep in mind that what follows comes only from me and may not represent City Council as a whole.
In the "you learn something new every day" department, we discussed and approved a recommendation presented by our Police Chief to shift enforcement of animal control violations to Lake County. Our city animal control officer fields well over 1,000 calls a year. Mount Dora is the only city in Lake County that provides these services to our residents including assistance removing a snake from your garage, etc. We will continue to provide those services. The change involves transferring enforcement of violations over to the County. In the past 18 months or so there have been 13 cases that were investigated, 6 of those cases resulted in citations being issued for things like dangerous dogs. This change makes sense to me. It was approved 7-0.
If you have a budget for your household you undoubtedly understand the need for periodically amending and updating it. Sometimes you need to shift more money into one category by taking some funds out of another. Occasionally, you might receive unanticipated revenue that can be added in along the way. In our case, Federal COVID funding has provided us with money that needs to be allocated while unusually high project cost inflation has required us to adjust our figures to cover higher project costs. Approving mid-year budget amendments became necessary. Adjustments are needed every budget year but even more so this year.
Over our past few meetings City Council has discussed and tweaked the language of a proposed Charter Amendment that would, if it passes, insert building height limitations into our City Charter. This has been a hot topic for the past year. We formed a committee made up of volunteers to come up with recommendations for the ballot language. We also conducted a Building Height Impact Survey to solicit the opinions of residents and business owners in the historic downtown area. There was a very good response, meaning that many people chose to participate in the survey, 153 in all. Not surprisingly, the survey results indicate that there is a fairly even divide in opinions on building heights.
By a 5-2 vote (Rolfson and Guenther voted no) council approved the first reading of an ordinance pertaining to a Charter Amendment limiting building heights. In order to make a good decision, voters will need to study the merits and decide for themselves if the City's Charter is the appropriate place for height requirements to reside. I don't think that it is. Like everyone else, I have some strong opinions on this issue but I think that the proposal deserves to be voted upon in November. A second reading on this proposal will follow at our next meeting.
We will soon begin the process of "undergrounding" the numerous electric, phone and cable lines hanging over Royellou Lane. Hopefully, by the end of 2022 those unsightly wires will be gone making the alley more attractive to residents and visitors while increasing reliability.
Our City Manager reported to City Council on the status of a warranted traffic light at the entrance to the Lakes of Mount Dora on S.R. 44. This intersection has had several traffic accidents as recently as last week. More details will be available in the next few weeks. It's good to finally se progress being made.
Thanks for allowing me to serve District 4 as your representative on Mount Dora City Council.
By Marc Crail Vice-Mayor
For more news and events in Mount Dora, Tavares & Eustis, this month, click here. Discover the area's online entertainment calendar here. Also download the area's free mobile app.
I've selected several interesting presentations, discussion items and action items from our Tuesday, May 3 City Council meeting to tell you about. As always, this report comes from me and not on behalf of the entire City Council.
Our Mount Dora Electric Utility has been awarded the RP3 award by the American Public Power Association. Only 275 public power utilities out of over 2,000 have earned this award. RP3 refers to reliability. We have fewer than average outages and when we do have outages, they are repaired more quickly which makes Mount Dora Electric exceptional. The entire Department was on hand to be recognized for a dangerous job well done. In this case, small is better than big when Mount Dora is compared to much larger utilities including Duke Energy, Leesburg Electric, etc.
The long awaited new Public Works facility that will share a campus on Limit Rd. with new fire station #34 should break ground in October, subject to supply chain issues. We heard a report on the nearly final design features. Construction should take about a year. The cost will be $15.9 million. The new fire station which will be closer to Limit should also break ground, probably in August of this year.
We had a Public Hearing to review and discuss the second draft of an ordinance for a Building Height Charter Amendment that will be on the November ballot. I continue to support these building height limits but I adamantly oppose inserting building heights in our City Charter. We will all be hearing more about this ballot initiative in the upcoming months leading up to November. This was a "first reading". The second reading will presumably be at our next meeting.
There was a good deal of discussion and majority support (5-2) with members Walker and Cataldo voting no, for sending a letter to Lake County Commissioners in support of proposed legislation by Lake County designed to promote public safety by forbidding people from standing on road medians or within 4 feet of highways to solicit money, hand out literature or advertise.
This next item wasn't on the agenda and was not a part of the 5/3/22 meeting. It's an update, mostly for Lakes of Mount Dora residents that I'm inserting in this report as an update on a LoMD issue that came to my attention over the past weekend.
There are widespread concerns that LoMD developer, Medallion Home is planning to burn piles of pine trees that they will soon be cutting down in order to construct new houses. Fire Chief Rich Lower has contacted The Florida Department of Forestry which is the agency responsible for granting burn permits and monitoring burns. The City of Mount Dora does NOT have regulating authority. Like it or not, burning brush is quite common in Florida. When a developer plans to burn they must obtain a permit. Forestry has strict regulations for permit issuance including weather conditions, vegetation dryness, and required setbacks from streets and buildings. As of May 3, Medallion Home has not pulled a burn permit and according to their spokesman, options including burning are still being considered. If residents have concerns or wish to voice their opinions please contact The Florida Department of forestry.
My quote for today is compliments of William Shakespeare. "Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none."
Thanks for allowing me to represent District 4 and serve as your Vice Mayor.