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BEACON PHOTO/AL EVERSON The audience at the Orange City budget hearing, Sept. 13, where various audience members hold signs decrying a potential tax hike.

Just a few more days remain until the new fiscal year for Florida’s local governments begins.

When Oct. 1 comes, Orange City is ready with a 2021-22 budget that includes a modest increase in property taxes. Only one more public hearing and council vote are required to implement the fiscal policy.

A few people holding signs demanding a full rollback in the town’s millage did not sway the City Council Sept. 13 from giving initial approval of the $23.7 million spending plan.

“Our largest recurring revenue is ad valorem,” Orange City Finance Director Christine Davis told the council. “The budget is balanced at 7.79 [mills].”

That proposed millage is lower than the previously set property-tax rate of 7.8332 mills, but it is 2.79 percent higher than the rolled-back rate of 7.5783 mills. The rolled-back rate is the figure which, if imposed, would yield ad valorem revenues equal to those of the prior year.

Under state law, any proposed levy that is higher than the rolled-back rate must be advertised as a tax increase.

“I’m here as a person that’s interested in the future of Volusia County,” Stephanie Cox, of Deltona, said during the public hearing on the fiscal package. “If we don’t get a grip on taxes, we’re going to leave our children a disaster. … Please consider a rollback.”

Council members such as Bill O’Connor said the calls to reduce taxes and spending have come too late, as the new fiscal year is rapidly approaching.

“How many of our residents came to our workshops when we were designing our budget?” O’Connor asked, referring to informal public meetings on the budget during the summer. “We do want people to come.”

Davis noted the city’s property tax provides 42 percent of its revenue. Orange City’s coffers also receive approximately $1.5 million from a 10-percent utility tax on the monthly electric bills of residents and businesses inside the city limits.

Other sources of income for the city are state-shared tax collections and grants. Orange City also derives revenue by providing fire/rescue and animal-control services to neighboring DeBary. DeBary pays $1.97 million to Orange City for these two public-safety services.

Orange City’s general fund, the portion of the budget funded by property taxes, amounts to almost $14.5 million. Public safety, which includes the police and fire departments, costs approximately $6.5 million. Other expenses covered by the general fund are parks and recreation, code enforcement, special events, and municipal administration such as the salaries and operations of the City Council, as well as the offices of the city manager, the city clerk, human resources and finance.

Orange City is closing out the current fiscal year with a fund balance of $10.4 million. The fund balance is a cash reserve. During the coming fiscal year, the city plans to draw down the savings to purchase a new ladder truck for the Fire Department and to contract for engineering services for the improvement and upgrade of existing municipal buildings. The ladder truck will cost $1.5 million, and the engineering will cost about $2 million. In addition, Orange City will buy new radios compatible with the county’s 800-megahertz system, and that is a $313,000 outlay.

After these purchases are made, the fund balance will have about $6.6 million.

The Orange City Council will conduct its second public hearing and take a final vote on the 2021-22 budget and tax rate at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 28, in the City Council Chambers at 201 N. Holly Ave. The meeting is open to the public. There is no charge for admission.

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