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