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IMAGE COURTESY CITY OF DEBARY

In just a few more days, there will be a final public hearing and vote by the City Council before DeBary launches into the new fiscal year.

“We operate this city on very conservative financial principles,” City Manager Carmen Rosamonda said, as the City Council Sept. 8 weighed the new 2021-22 budget.

No one from the public spoke for or against the spending and tax proposals.

That pending budget’s general fund — the part of the budget funded by taxes — totals $21.5 million, and $7.2 million of that sum is the fund balance. The fund balance is a cash reserve or savings account that may be tapped for emergencies, such as destructive storms.

Just as Deltona has the highest ad valorem tax rate of any city in Volusia County, nearby DeBary has the lowest — and barring a sudden and unlikely race by other cities to cut their millage in the coming days — and it will probably keep that distinction.

Blessed with two electric-power plants that make up a sizable share of its $2.5 billion tax base, DeBary is eyeing a property-tax rate of 2.9247 mills, a figure equal to the levy of the fiscal year now ending. That rate is actually a 5.18-percent increase over the rolled-back rate, 2.7642 mills.

The rolled-back rate is the rate which, if imposed, would yield property-tax revenues equal to those of the preceding year, without taking into account new construction or annexations.

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

While its level ad valorem tax rate means a tax increase, DeBary’s property owners, especially homeowners, may see a slight decline in their overall tax bills. This is because the City Council has decided to reduce DeBary’s stormwater charge. The owner of an average home will see the annual assessment drop from the long-standing $192 to $170.

“We have a plan with a purpose,” Vice Mayor Phyllis Butlien said. “I am all for this.”

DeBary’s new budget will be sufficient, according to Rosamonda, to adjust to changing economic conditions. As they prepare for a new fiscal year, local leaders say they are facing serious financial pressures from inflation in the prices of energy, fuel and insurance. Not least, a 2020 amendment of the Florida Constitution requires state and local governments and private businesses to escalate to a minimum hourly wage of $15 by 2026.

“The $15 minimum wage affects everything,” Rosamonda said.

Florida’s minimum wage is now $8.65 an hour, but the minimum pay rate rises to $10 on Sept. 30.

In addition, Rosamonda cautioned, some of the economic dislocation caused by the coronavirus pandemic continues.

“Demand for goods and services exceeds the supply chain,” he said, adding there may be delays in deliveries of items the city government purchases.

The City Council’s second and final public hearing and final vote on its 2021-22 budget and property-tax rate will take place at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 22, at DeBary City Hall, 16 Colomba Road. The meeting is open to the public.

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