Budget-setting season is underway, and following three lengthy meetings during the week of July 10-14, the DeLand City Commission worked out some of the finer details of next fiscal year’s budget.
To fund its $108.9 million budget ($108,871,325 to be exact), the city tentatively plans to levy a property-tax millage rate of 6.4841. That millage rate is lower than last year’s rate of 6.5841, which funded a $200 million budget, but rising property values mean DeLandites will still pay more to the city in property taxes.
One of DeLand’s challenges, city officials said, is the large number of properties in the city that are either entirely tax-exempt — churches or Stetson University, for example — or enjoy significant exemptions, such as the homestead exemptions and additional exemptions for low-income seniors, veterans, widows and widowers, and people with disabilities.
What’s it paying for?
The theme of next year’s budget, City Commissioner Charles Paiva identified after nearly 12 hours of budget discussion over three days, is people. Last year, Paiva noted, the emphasis was on capital expenditures, such as a new utilities building and the Lake Moore conservation-land purchase.
This year, like many other entities in the public sector, the City of DeLand is fighting to find employees and retain them.
To do that, the city wants to make working for the local government more enticing. Some of the discussion was about whether to raise base wages from $15 to $15.75 or $16 per hour. Nearly everyone on the commission pushed for $16.
“It’s hard to compete with an inside job at Wawa that’s paying more than being out in the heat and doing other things,” Mayor Chris Cloudman said. “Benefits may or may not be as good, but that’s why I’d look to go to the full $16.”
Along with that wage increase would be a merit increase for some existing employees and an extension of how many hours a week the city’s medical clinic for employees is open.
All of this is being done to keep pace with neighboring municipalities that are offering higher wages than the City of DeLand, as well as private-sector jobs that often far outpace the city’s wages.
Other expenditures in the budget include six new staff members, among which are a maintenance worker, a parks-and-recreation foreman, and a new police officer.
Breaking it down
One hundred million dollars is a lot of money, so where does it come from, and where’s it going?
While property taxes are typically the most direct way local residents fund their city and county governments, ad valorem property taxes account for only $17.6 million — less than a fifth of the city’s total $100 million budget, but 38 percent of the general fund.
Other city revenue comes from other taxes, like the local-option tax on gasoline and sales taxes shared by the state, along with other fees, like those levied for utilities. After all, the City of DeLand’s utility service area extends outside the city limits into the Greater DeLand Area.
The largest chunk of the $100 million budget is the city’s general fund, totaling almost $47 million. That fund pays for government operation, and city departments like public works, parks and recreation, community development and more.
About half of that nearly $50 million goes to the public-safety budget. That will fund the city’s Fire Department — to the tune of about $9 million — and the city’s Police Department — around $12 million.
The next-largest part of the city’s budget is the water and sewer fund, one of the city’s “enterprise” funds, whose charges for services fully fund its operations. In water and sewer, operating expenses are up, and the department needs to replace a number of old vehicles and pay more for insurance.
The rest of the city’s budget goes to funding the municipal airport, capital expenditures, the community redevelopment agencies and more.
Here are some other notable items in the city’s budget:
$150,000 was tentatively earmarked for a cover-music concert series or music festival event at Spec Martin Memorial Stadium. If all went according to plan, staff said, much, if not all, of those funds would be recovered through ticket sales and sponsorships.
$550,000 will go to The Bridge homeless shelter, which is partially funded by the City of DeLand and operated by The Neighborhood Center of West Volusia. Fifty-thousand dollars will come from next year’s budget, and the remaining $500,000 will come from federal funds DeLand received as part of the American Rescue Plan Act signed into law by President Joe Biden in 2021. The Bridge opened in 2020, and the City of DeLand committed to helping fund the operation of the shelter for five years. Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed a $500,000 allocation for The Bridge in the state budget.
$150,000 will tentatively go to stabilizing the foundation of Spec Martin Memorial Stadium and ensuring the stadium will be around for decades to come.
$736,776 will tentatively go toward purchasing a new fire engine, a Saber truck from the company Pierce Manufacturing. The new firetruck would replace a 2007 vehicle.
$31,175 was earmarked for purchasing two drones for the DeLand Police Department. Drones would assist in finding suspects, Chief Jason Umberger said, and the machines are less disruptive than helicopters.