By Dr. Marc Crail District 4 City Council Representative
This evening's Mount Dora City Council Meeting ran from 5:30 to about 9:00. I've chosen some discussion items and some action items to share with you. As you probably know, I'm not reporting on behalf of City Council, what follows comes only from me.
Let's start with updates about the 2 items that have attracted lots of attention recently but were not on the regular meeting agenda.
Yesterday on Monday 7/19 a "Letter of Intent to Amend the City Code of Ordinances to limit building heights" similar to the another letter that I mentioned in my report from our 7/6/21 meeting was delivered to City officials. This one was added as an addendum to tonight's regular agenda by the mayor. I'm attempting to be brief so I'll give you the high points.
The petitioners propose limiting building heights to a maximum of 35 feet anywhere in the Historic Preservation District (that area runs roughly from 1st. Ave. to 11th. Ave. and from Highland to Helen). They also want to limit building heights to 25 feet anywhere within 100 feet of Lake Dora.
After public comments and from council members there will be more discussions between the City Attorney and the Petitioners' Attorney about the legalities of the proposal as it is written. Potentially, this could become the subject of a ballot issue if enough electors sign petitions. My understanding is that it would take about 1,600 verified signatures from registered Mount Dora voters to get this proposal on the ballot. Council didn't take any action today. Stay tuned for future developments.
The second important issue that has been garnering discussion and questions lately involves the possible layoffs of up to 12 fire fighters who were hired about 3 years ago through a Federal SAFER Grant that is going to end this December. Our next Budget Workshop will be on Tuesday August 3rd. beginning at 9:00 a.m. at the W. T. Bland Library meeting room. That topic will be the primary subject of the meeting that is open to the public. If you'd like to read about the sequence of events related to the SAFER Grant, Fire Department Budgets, etc. please go to: http://cityofmountdora.com/FireFacts? You can follow the timeline dating back to 2017 that will provide you some background information.
As I wrote in my most recent report we did TENTATIVELY set the MAXIMUM millage rate for FY 21-22 at 6.2 mills. We think it will be reduced somewhat in the upcoming weeks as we get more and better data. This maximum, 6.2 millage rate will appear on the TRIM Notice that homeowners will receive in the mail in August. For several years now we have been able to reduce the millage so don't panic when you open that TRIM Notice. Nothing is final yet.
We approved an agreement with Waterman Village enabling them to build a 17' tall private golf cart and pedestrian bridge over Donnelly St. This will allow Waterman Village residents and staff to safely get from the existing part of their campus to the new section currently under construction. The Bridge will have an attractive "Welcome to Mount Dora" sign on it and a display of public art as well.
My quotes for you today are by Shirley Chisholm. Ms. Chisholm was a long time member of Congress from New York. She was the first female African-American to make a serious run for the Democratic nomination for President in 1972. My friend Joe told me about the first Chisholm quote and I came across the second one. "If they don't give you a seat at the table, bring in a folding chair." She also said; "You don't make progress by standing on the sideline, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas."
Thank you for your interest in your Mount Dora city government!
Dr. Marc Crail District 4 City Council Representative
By Marc Crail District 4 City Council Representative
Today Mount Dora City Council held its third budget workshop from 9:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. I'm going to attempt to condense four and a half hours work into a few paragraphs so I'll be painting in broad strokes. I hope to hit the high points for you. I am not reporting on behalf of City Council. This comes from me as an individual Council member.
We are using five Guiding Principles to decide what will be included in our budget for the upcoming fiscal year. These
Guiding Principlesare: 1. Maintain City service levels. 2. Maintain the City's basic infrastructure. 3. Maintain the public's safety. 4. Comply with all federal, state and local laws. 5. Retain competitive pay and benefits.
You already know that this is going to be a very challenging year for several reasons. We are just now emerging from the Pandemic. We anticipate that our funding from the State will be down as a result of the Pandemic and a substantial decrease in tourists this past year. Costs of materials and supplies are going up. You see that every time you buy groceries, go to the home improvement store, or buy gasoline. Here's one example. Our gasoline budget will likely be up 60% over last year. The good news is that the economy is roaring back and the bad news is that prices are up due to inflation. The job market is tight. We need to pay our employees more or they will be tempted to leave us to make higher salaries elsewhere. None of this is news to you.
Every time we meet we get updated information so what I tell you today will change tomorrow or next week. For instance, as of 7/7/21 we don't yet know what our funding will be from the state of Florida so our staff has given us their best estimate.
Our overall FY2022 Citywide total budget will be about $100,486,264. Our General Fund Budget will be about $24,391,741.
Our City staff and your City Council think that we can balance our FY22 budget by setting our millage rate a 6.000 mills. That is slightly higher than last year but not much.
We think that we will be receiving $6,100,000. from the Federal government's American Rescue Plan but as of today we haven't gotten a penny. By the way, ARP money can only be spent on a few things. We plan to use most of ours to improve our water, sewer and broadband infrastructure if and when we get it.
We don't think there will be any increases in your City utility rates like water/wastewater, sanitation, or stormwater until 2022 but then they will probably go up incrementally because of inflation.
We think that our Citywide budget and our City's debt will be lower in FY 22 than they were in FY19.
We have managed to reduce the number full time (FTE) employees by 7 in the past year.
If you've been reading my meeting notes for a while now you'll probably recall that City Council traditionally tentatively sets the "Maximum Millage" in July higher than we think it will end up in September. We do that to sort of hedge our bets that a huge natural disaster such as a major hurricane doesn't blow through town in August and ruin our budget plans. If that doesn't happen, then on September 20, 2021 we fully expect that the final millage rate will be set at 6.000.
Keep in mind that when you get your TRIM Notice in the mail in August it will show the higher 6.200 millage rate that will almost certainly be reduced in September. It probably won't help me any to tell you; "Trust me. I'm from the government and I'm telling you the truth", but it's exactly what I think and we have been able to deliver on that for the past several years. I feel pretty sure that we will be able to do that again.
One thing is for sure, we will always have more "wants" than "needs". City Council is committed to meeting all the "needs" but not many "wants" this time around.
Thanks for allowing me to be a part of of City Council.
I've got a quote for you from Albert Einstein who was a pretty smart man. "Two things are infinite, the universe and stupidity and I'm not sure about the universe."
By Dr. Marc Crail District 4 City Council Representative
With the help of Mount Dora Police Chief Brett Meade, Mount Dora City Council passed an ordinance prohibiting excessively loud, booming noise emanating from cars within its city limits. The ordinance states that “excessively loud, booming noise emanating from a motor vehicle is a public safety hazard, which distracts motorists, makes it difficult for drivers to hear emergency sirens and is generally a breach of peace and quiet.”
The new city law (Ordinance No. 2021-11) states that a first offense can have a fine of $100, while second offenses increase to $250. Third or subsequent offenses have a fine of $350. However, the City will initially make efforts to educate the public about the new ordinance.
The ordinance makes it unlawful for any person who controls or occupies a motor vehicle in Mount Dora to amplify the sound from the vehicle so that it's plainly audible and unreasonably excessive. If defines “unreasonably excessive” as “sound that is plainly audible at a distance of 50 feet or more from a motor vehicle” and “plainly audible” is defined as “any sound produced by a radio or other mechanical or electrical sound making device or instrument from within or on a motor vehicle, including sound produced by a portable sound making device, that can be clearly heard outside of the motor vehicle.
The primary method of detection will be a law enforcement officer's direct line of sight and ordinary auditory senses. The law enforcement officers don't need to hear the particular words or phrases being produced or the name of any song or artist producing the sound. Detection of a rhythmic bass reverberating-type sound is sufficient to constitute a “plainly audible sound” and enforcement is based on the sound, not its content.