BY LINDA WHITE
Dear Mayor and Commissioners,
I was deeply saddened at the vote/approval of the resolution establishing the maximum tentative millage rate without a publicly published proposed budget document and subsequent discussion.
This is the first time since the incorporation of Deltona this has happened.
It is quite a sad commentary for a city of 100,000 population and a community that voted to incorporate less than 30 years ago so residents would have more voice and more representation.
To the best of my knowledge, when the property appraiser in a few weeks sends out the TRIM notice to Volusia County residents, the City of Deltona residents will be the only residents in Volusia County that were denied the opportunity to see and comment on a proposed millage rate linked to a publicly published proposed budget document.
— The only residents in Volusia County that today, July 19, 2023, have no knowledge of the basis for their commission setting their maximum millage rate, which will have a profound effect on many, many families both old and young who have recently moved to our city.
— The only elected officials in Volusia County that did not ask for a proposed budget document and allowing public comment on that document before approving a max millage rate.
And the fact that you publicly say that you have reviewed the proposed budget and yet chose not to allow the public that opportunity — is proof that not only is citizen engagement not wanted, it is deliberately blocked.
It demonstrates with great clarity the detachment between a local government, one that you now refer to as “The Corporation,” the one that is supposed to be closest to the people, and the very community to which you were elected to serve.
This deliberate act has cost you a great deal in terms of loss of the public trust — both from citizens as well as other public and private entities that look to be able to trust your processes, values and governance.
I know you don’t yet realize what it means and the impacts it can have when that Trust is gone.
And perhaps you will never correlate that to other circumstances as they occur.
But through my years of experience, I have learned that everything moves at the speed of Trust.
Trust is the magic that makes impossible projects possible.
Trust and Hope are what can make a community resilient in the face of overwhelming adversity.
Trust is free.
And it is the Secret Ingredient of Thriving and Resilient Communities.
Many of you boast that this millage rate is a decrease from last year’s rate, but the process by which you determined that rate completely disrespected the public and destroyed everything that is sacred and predictable about a local government budget process.
And a community wounded and still reeling from flooding, traffic congestion and an insurance crisis deserves something predictable — something they can still believe in when everything seems unpredictable.
I do not understand why you have chosen this particular path of governance, because I find each of you individually to be caring about the community.
But in my many years of living life close to the community, I understand this: The End never justifies the Means — especially when it destroys something sacred.
— White wrote this letter addressing the Deltona City Commission and mayor. It has been printed with her permission. White is a former executive director of the Greater West Volusia Chamber of Commerce and served as acting Deltona city manager during the city’s early years of incorporation