BEACON FILE PHOTO Flooding in DeLand after Hurricane Irma. DeBary is still waiting for federal reimbursement for Hurricane Irma damage in 2017, making the funding still a concern while DeBary sets their yearly budget.

Still in the midst of the hot summer, fall may seem a long way off. But like other local governments, the River City’s leaders are making their spending and revenue plans for the new fiscal year that starts Oct. 1.

The DeBary City Council July 21 gave its preliminary approval of a total budget of almost $32.6 million. Within that number is the general fund, amounting to about $21.3 million and funded in part with a projected $6.9 million in property taxes.

The city is continuing to contract with other governments for public safety. DeBary will pay $3.6 million to the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office for law enforcement, and it will pay $1.93 million to Orange City for fire services.

The council also adopted a proposed ad valorem levy of 2.9247 mills, or about $2.92 per $1,000 of taxable property value. That is the tax rate that will appear on the TRIM notices, or preliminary tax notices, that will be mailed in August to owners of property in DeBary. Under state law, local governments and taxing authorities, such as the School Board and hospital districts, must adopt their preliminary tax rates no later than July 31.

The proposed rate approved by the City Council is a preliminary figure, which may be lowered, but not raised, before the governing body makes a final decision on the budget and taxation in September.

Although the city’s tax rate remains unchanged from the fiscal year now waning, it equates to a 5.8-percent tax increase, because it is higher than the rolledback rate of 2.7642 mills. The rolled-back figure is the rate that, if set, would yield property-tax revenues equal to those of the current fiscal year, without taking into account new construction and annexations.

Still, people living in neighboring cities may be jealous of DeBary, which has the lowest tax rate of any city in Volusia County. The low levy is due largely to the presence of two private electric-power plants, one owned by FPL and the other owned by Duke Energy, within the city.

The budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year comes as city officials are still reckoning with the effects of storm costs incurred years ago.

A major portion of DeBary’s general fund is almost $7.3 million in reserves. Of that sum, $5.1 million is earmarked for hurricane damage and recovery, should the need arise. One reason the city has set aside such a large percentage of its reserves for storm-related expenses is that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is slow to reimburse DeBary for eligible expenses.

“It takes about three years,” City Manager Carmen Rosamonda said, noting DeBary is still awaiting a federal reimbursement for Hurricane Irma in 2017.

Of the $1.7 million the city spent in connection with Irma, DeBary is still awaiting a final payment of $165,000.

“We have verbal agreement that the last payment has been approved,” DeBary Public Information Director Shari Simmans wrote, in response to an inquiry from The Beacon.

The City Council has also tentatively passed the non-ad valorem assessments, which are annual charges for services or projects. These assessments appear on the property-tax bills and must be paid in conjunction with the real estate taxes.

DeBary’s homeowners will pay $220, the same rate in effect for the 2020-21 fiscal year, for solid-waste pickup and disposal.

Homeowners will get a break on their stormwater charges. The annual stormwater assessment for the average home will drop from $192 to $170. Owners of vacant residential lots will be billed $85, down from $96.

DeBary has 38 streetlighting districts, whose yearly charges range between $27 and $300. These, too, appear on property-tax bills.

Owners of property in Orlandia Heights will have to pay $300 each for their Neighborhood Improvement District. The charges apply to approximately 300 homes. The payments cover road improvements.

Finally, but not least, 64 owners of homes in a special-assessment district along Fort Florida Road will be billed $1,121.53 for the waterlines that were installed seven years ago. This is the final year those affected property owners will be charged for the capital cost of the seven-year project.

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Born in Virginia, Al spent his youth in Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia, and first moved to DeLand in 1969. He graduated from Stetson University in 1971, and returned to West Volusia in 1985. Al began working for The Beacon as a stringer in 1999, contributing articles on county and municipal government and, when he left his job as the one-man news department at Radio Station WXVQ, began working at The Beacon full time.


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