110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Al Everson
posted Aug 28, 2012 - 7:34:52am
The Deltona City Commission has tentatively decided to stay in one countywide organization next year, and exit another to save money.
Commissioners want to continue to pay $42,615 annual dues for the economic-development partnership called Team Volusia, but drop out of the Volusia Council of Governments (VCOG), whose annual dues are $30,271 for Deltona.
“Is it worth our while as a city?” Mayor John Masiarczyk asked, as he and other members of the commission debated the memberships during a budget discussion.
Commissioner Zenaida Denizac voiced support for getting out of VCOG.
“They’re not desperate for a relationship; they are desperate for our money,” Denizac said.
Freshman Commissioner Heidi Herzberg called for Deltona’s continued participation.
“You’re looking at not being isolationist,” Herzberg said. “I have a big fear we as a city are going to become very isolationist. ... Whether we like it or not, we cannot be an island.”
VCOG Executive Director Mary Swiderski said she was shocked by Deltona’s pending departure.
“There’s no other place for governments to come together,” she told The Beacon. “This affects our other members, who are wondering what they have done to cause Deltona to feel this way.”
Swiderski said VCOG is a productive organization that aids all localities within the county.
“We are working on baby boomers and their quality of life and the environment. We do things. I wrote the bill that deals with the pain clinics. We seek grants. We do things, and we try to find solutions across jurisdictional lines,” she said.
Swiderski said she has not heard of any other member government that wants to leave.
The membership dues may seem small in a budget that totals more than $100 million, but Deltona is looking for places to cut spending and lower the city’s property-tax rate in a time of economic hardship.
Deltona is working with a tentative ad valorem levy of 7.99 mills, or $7.99 per thousand dollars of taxable property value. With that rate, the biggest city in Volusia County will retain the dubious distinction of having the highest tax rate of any local government.
Masiarczyk said VCOG representatives asked to appear at the City Commission’s Sept. 17 regular meeting to present their case for Deltona to stay in the intergovernmental alliance. Masiarczyk and other city officials turned down the request.
The Sept. 17 City Commission meeting will also include a public hearing on the second and final vote on Deltona’s 2012-13 budget and taxation.
Despite some misgivings, Deltona will likely remain in Team Volusia as it seeks to attract new businesses and industries and to aid local ones in their expansions.
“This is not a time for us to get out of this,” Masiarczyk said.
Vice Mayor Paul Treusch agreed.
“I feel that we need to stay with Team Volusia at least for another year,” he said.
Treusch wondered, however, if Team Volusia may pass over Deltona in favor of the coastal cities, in terms of recruiting companies.
“I think the deck is stacked against us,” he said. “The east side is stacked against me.”
On the other hand, Treusch credited Team Volusia with helping convince Dunkin’ Donuts and RaceTrac to select sites in Deltona. Both companies are planning to build new stores along Howland Boulevard, near Deltona High School, in the coming months.
As for attracting manufacturers that would pay high wages to skilled workers to produce value-added goods, Masiarczyk said Deltona has no sites to support such companies.
“We just don’t have it,” he told his colleagues.
Deltona has little land set aside for industrial uses. There is a mothballed electronics plant along Enterprise Road, across from Deltona Middle School, and the Activity Center (at the interchange of Interstate 4 and Graves Avenue) includes mixed-use parcels that could accommodate light industry or warehousing, if water and sewage lines and other infrastructure were available.
Mixed-use parcels may also be suitable for retail development or office buildings, as well as apartments or condominiums.
Deltona may create industrial sites in a proposed community-redevelopment area (CRA) and/or brownfield areas. (Brownfields denote lands that may have contaminated soil or water, and may be unsuited for residential use but are possibly good for commercial or industrial uses.)
“I don’t know why we can’t start Team Deltona,” Commissioner Fred Lowry said. “If Team Volusia is throwing one in 20 our way, Team Deltona would throw 100 percent our way.”
“We are Team Deltona,” Masiarczyk said, referring to the City Commission and the administration.
Any final decision on Deltona’s participation in organizations such as VCOG and Team Volusia will come in conjunction with the adoption of the city’s new budget. The city’s 2012-13 fiscal year begins Oct. 1.
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