Deltona tax proesters
BEACON PHOTO/AL EVERSON THE DELTONA TEA PARTY — Opponents of a pending property-tax increase in Deltona pose together outside City Hall, before they attend the first of two public hearings on the city’s budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year. From left are Debbie Kehrley, Paul Kitchen, Fran Darmes, Gary Crews, Patty Crews, Stephanie Cox and George Casazza. The City Commission ultimately voted to keep Deltona’s ad valorem tax rate at 7.85 mills. Although the tax rate remains level with that of previous years, Deltonans may pay more in city property taxes because real estate values have risen sharply over the past few years.

Over the objections of a few, the Deltona City Commission Sept. 9 adopted a tentative increase in property taxes for owners of homes and businesses.

“Now is not the time to raise my taxes whatsoever,” George Casazza told the commission. “There’s a lot of people who cannot afford to own a home, and they’re going to pay more in rent. … People are struggling.”

In its next-to-last act before setting the tax levy and spending program for the coming 2021-22 fiscal year, the commission voted to keep the city’s ad valorem levy at 7.85 mills. That rate is 9.3 percent higher than the rolled-back rate of 7.18 mills. The rolled-back rate is the rate that, if adopted, would yield property-tax revenues equal to those of the prior year, without taking into account new construction. Deltona has the highest property-tax rate of all the cities in Volusia County. 

The elected panel also approved a budget totaling $192.5 million. Of that sum, the general fund amounts to $57.7 million, and that is the portion that is funded in part by property taxes.

“I’m here for the people who cannot be here, for the people who are working. I’m here for my grandchildren,” Stephanie Cox said.

The approved millage rate, equal to what is now in effect, actually means that property owners will pay more because of increases in the prices and values of land and the things built upon it. Homestead owners have a measure of protection against some of the surge in values, in that the 1992 Save Our Homes Amendment to the Florida Constitution limits annual increases in their assessments to 3 percent or the consumer price index, whichever is less.

Yet leaving the millage unchanged from the current fiscal year means Deltona will collect 9.3 percent more in property-tax revenues than it received for the past year.

The proposed budget includes funding for additional code-enforcement officers and maintenance personnel for Deltona’s parks.

“Anybody that goes around the community knows we have serious code-compliance issues,” Acting City Manager John Peters said. 

“We want to improve our parks. We have to get a program in place … to maintain what we have,” he also said.

Mayor Heidi Herzberg defended the tax increase as necessary to meet rising expenses for fuel, energy and insurance, as well as demands to pay more to recruit and retain city employees.

“The costs of all these items have gone up,” she told her colleagues and the audience.

“It’s hard, because we have to pay these property taxes,” Vice Mayor Anita Bradford said.

There were dissenters. 

“We do have people who can’t pay any more,” Commissioner Loren King said. “We have people who are biting the bullet. … I oppose an increase in taxes.”

“This has been a bad year. This is not the time to raise taxes,” Commissioner David Sosa said.

King and Sosa voted against the resolution to set the tentative ad valorem levy at 7.85 mills. Herzberg, Bradford, and Commissioners Maritza Avila-Vazquez, Dana McCool and Victor Ramos formed the majority.

There will be one more opportunity for people to speak out on Deltona’s 2021-22 budget and tax measures. The final public hearing and the binding vote on the fiscal package by the City Commission are set for 6:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 21, at Deltona City Hall, 2345 Providence Blvd. The meeting is open to the public.


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