Commission Raises Tax Cap

Commission Raises Tax Cap

Commission Raises Tax Cap

But Will They Raise the Tax?

by Anne Mooney / August 1, 2020

At their July 22 meeting, the Commission set a tentative millage rate of 4.5623. That figure represents a cap, a not-to-exceed number, and it’s the first raise in 13 years. Between now and September 23, the Commission can decide to leave the rate at its current level of 4.0923, they can raise it a little, or they can raise it to the 4.5623 cap set at the July 22 meeting. Much depends on information the City still does not have, such as information regarding available funds from the state in FY 2021. Ultimately, those projections will depend upon the depth of the recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Nothing is final until September 23.

Because each year’s budget is adopted by ordinance, two readings with public input are required. The first reading of the FY 2021 budget is September 9; the second and final reading is September 23. The FY 2021 Budget will be adopted and the final millage rate will be set when the Commission votes on September 23.

It’s not just the City that sets the tax rate.

The City establishes the millage rate by creating a draft budget that seeks to balance projected expenses and revenues. Simultaneously, four other entities are doing exactly the same thing – each with eyes on our tax dollars. Our tax bill is based on a combination millage rates set by five entities — Orange County, St. Johns River Water Management District, the School Board, the City of Winter Park and the private debt created by Winter Park voters to build the Public Safety Complex and the Library-Events Center. These five millage rates will combine to form the rate we will pay on the assessed value of our property. The current rate for Winter Park is 16.3156.

Only about 25 percent of that total goes to support City services, while 44 percent goes to the schools and 27 percent goes to Orange County.

The economy has contracted in the pandemic.

According to Finance Director Wes Hamill, the City is currently facing a shortfall in 2020 of about $3 million due to the coronavirus pandemic. Hamill said he believes that by cutting costs, but without cutting services, there is still a good chance the City will break even by the September 30 year end. Some events, such as the Fourth of July parade, were cancelled because of the pandemic, thus saving those funds. Several open City positions have been frozen. If there is still a shortfall at the end of September, Hamill said the City will use reserves to cover the difference.

SunRail contribution postponed.

Hamill says he anticipates a $1.4 million decline in the FY 2021 budget from 2020. He did have one piece of good news, though. The City’s obligation to contribute to Sunrail has been delayed for two years, and will not begin until 2023.

Despite the doom-and-gloom spin circulating the blogosphere, the City remains in good shape. The proposed budget document points out, “Winter park is fortunate to have the lowest operating millage rate among major jurisdictions in Orange County.” A comparison of tax rates is below.

 

To review the entire 401-page document, click here. https://cityofwinterpark.org/docs/departments/finance/budget/proposed-budget-2021.pdf

What does this mean for us?

The chart below illustrates the impact a rise to the current Winter Park millage cap would have on the average Winter Park homeowner. (This does not include increases from the other four taxing entities.) The chart was prepared by Finance Director Wes Hamill and Assistant City Manager Michelle Neuner.

There is still much we don’t know about FY 2021projections, and these are very uncertain times. “If you asked us to guess on a hurricane, we’d be pretty good,” said Michelle Neuner. “This year, in a pandemic, it’s a little tougher.”

 

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Progress at Progress Point

Progress at Progress Point

Progress at Progress Point

Commissioners Explore What Progress Point Will Look Like

by Anne Mooney / July 27, 2020

Imagining Progress Point

Amidst the confusion and frustration surrounding the Orange Avenue Overlay (OAO), a Commission work session on Thursday, July 23, offered a glimmer of hope there might soon be progress at Progress Point. The work session centered around ideas of what could happen at the City-owned property located at the center of the proposed overlay district, roughly half-way between the two large properties at either end, one owned by the Holler family interests, the other by Demetree Global.

Progress on Progress Point.

Commissioners met Thursday to explore the possible fate of Progress Point – an empty, blighted parcel of land snugged up against the railroad tracks that the City acquired in the infamous land swap of 2011, when the City traded the old State Office Building parcel at the corner of Morse Blvd. and Denning Dr. for the Progress Point property on Orange Ave.

Commissioners plan to make plans.

Since the meeting was a work session, the Commissioners could take no action. They did, however, agree upon what action they plan to take when the opportunity presents itself at the next commission meeting. Four Commissioners were present – Sheila DeCiccio, Marty Sullivan, Todd Weaver and Vice Mayor Carolyn Cooper. Mayor Steve Leary was absent.

After a joint presentation by a consortium that included ACi architects, LandDesign, HR Miller Landscape Architect and Steve Goldman about what Progress Point could look like, were the City to go that direction, the Commissioners agreed upon six basic principles that would guide their decisions regarding Progress Point.

What’s planned for Progress Point?

The City will maintain control and ownership of the property, though the Commissioners said they would consider the possibility of a land lease to a private developer or to a non-profit concern created specifically for the purpose. No residential property will be built on Progress Point. The parcel will contain approximately 1.5 contiguous acres of green park space and a 12-foot-wide bike path along a relocated Palmetto Avenue. Businesses in any structures built on the parcel must enhance the park experience for residents and visitors. The City will realign Palmetto Avenue, moving it south, closer to the railroad tracks, to provide more contiguous land for parking and the 1.5-acre park.

The Commissioners allocated $150,000 for the engineering and design necessary to relocate Palmetto Avenue, build surface parking and the pedestrian/bicycle path. This will enable planners to determine what infrastructure improvements will be needed to support the types of businesses that would be appropriate for that site. An additional $10,000 will go for a plan to connect the urban park spaces throughout the City of Winter Park.

This chapter of OAO history begins with OAO Steering Committee. (This is not Chapter One.)

In late 2019, after a lengthy series of meetings and public input, a 10-member OAO steering committee submitted their recommendations to the City for the adoption of an ordinance to create the OAO. The steering committee voted 8-2 in favor, with Michael Dick and [future] Commissioner Sheila DeCiccio dissenting. Michael Dick felt development entitlements for the two large property owners were overly generous. Ms. DeCiccio objected to the city planners’ idea of selling the Progress Point property to a developer for office space and a parking garage that would contain extra parking to be shared with surrounding small businesses. Instead, DeCiccio wanted the City to retain ownership.

First Reading January 13 – 16, 2020.

The ordinance to create the OAO went to the Commission on January 13 for its first reading. That Commission meeting, which began January 13 at 3:30 pm, lasted until approximately 2:30 am January 14, and was continued January 16 for another five to six hours. The ordinance, which included provisions for the 1.5-acre park, passed on a 3-2 vote, with Mayor Leary and Commissioners Sarah Sprinkel and Greg Seidel supporting, and Commissioners Carolyn Cooper and Todd Weaver dissenting.

Approved on Second Reading ‘as amended’ March 9.

The OAO ordinance was sent to Tallahassee for approval and came back to Winter Park for its second reading March 9. At the March 9 Commission meeting, the ordinance was approved as amended – there were more than 50 amendments.

New Commission March 17.

On March 17, a new Commission was elected. Commissioners Sarah Sprinkel and Greg Seidel did not seek re-election, and Commissioners Sheila DeCiccio and Marty Sullivan took their places. By then, the novel coronavirus pandemic had set in, delaying the swearing-in of the new Commissioners until March 27.

Ordinance rescinded March 30.

On March 30, the newly-seated Commissioners rescinded the OAO ordinance. Their stated intent was not to kill the OAO, but to revisit some of the rules and regulations regarding the density, size and height of new development, particularly on the larger properties. Commissioner DeCiccio also wanted to make sure Progress Point remains under City ownership.

City Sued April 24 and May 12

On April 24, Demetree Global filed suit against the City as WP Station Tower, LLC, Winterpark Station, LLC, Wintergate, LLC, and Palmetto Building 2019, LLC. The Holler properties, as DI Partners, LLLP, and CVJCR Properties, Ltd., LLLP filed suit shortly after, on May 12. The complaints request the courts to declare the ordinance rescinding the OAO null and void.

City declares temporary moratorium July 22.

While there is no restriction on development within the OAO under the City’s current zoning rules, the temporary moratorium prevents new OAO development based on the regulations in the rescinded OAO zoning plan. The moratorium is expected to last until the current Commission comes up with a revised version of the overlay plan.

Commissioners have scheduled a series of work sessions throughout the remainder of the summer to come up with a plan to move forward on development rules for the OAO district.

The process of creating the Orange Avenue Overlay is far from over. What happens at Progress Point may well be the first step.

 

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Primary Elections – August 18

Primary Elections – August 18

Primary Elections – August 18

Do Not Ignore This One — Get Out and Vote!

by Anne Mooney / July 13, 2020

While everyone’s attention is focused on the November elections, the August 18 Primary Election will also have an immediate and lasting impact. Mark your calendars and get out and VOTE.

Register to Vote

The deadline to register to vote or to update your party affiliation for the August 18 Primary is July 20. You can do this online at RegisterToVoteFlorida.gov, or by phone by calling 407-836-2070. You can go in person to any driver’s license office, the Winter Park Public Library, or the Orange County Elections office at 119 W. Kaley St., Orlando FL, 32806.

Vote by Mail

The deadline to request a Vote by Mail ballot is August 8 at 5:00 pm. You can request a Vote by Mail ballot online at ocfelections.com, by phone at 407-836-8683 or by email at voter@ocfelections.com.

Early Voting

If you prefer to cast your ballot in person before Election Day, go to <ocfelections.com/early-voting> to find an early voting location that is convenient for you. Unlike on Election Day, when you must vote at your assigned polling place, you can vote at any early voting center. Early voting dates are August 3 – 16. Note the locations, dates, and hours of operation on the <ocfelections.com> website. Be sure to bring photo and signature identification.

What’s on the Ballot?

In addition to several partisan races, there are five non-partisan races, so what appears on the ballots will depend upon your party affiliation.

Republicans will vote for the Congressional Representative from District 7, a State Committeeman, a State Committeewoman, four judges for the 9th Judicial Circuit and a member of the School Board.

Democrats will vote for State Attorney, Sheriff, Property Appraiser, four judges for the 9th Judicial Circuit and a School Board member.

Those with No Party Affiliation will vote only for the School Board member and the four Circuit Court judges.

You can confirm your voter status and find your polling place on the ocfelections.com website. If you have questions, call 407-836-2070 and someone will be able to assist you.

 

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Juneteenth – Celebrating with Personal Pledges

Juneteenth – Celebrating with Personal Pledges

Juneteenth - Celebrating with Personal Pledges

Valada Flewellyn and Charley Williams / June 19, 2020

 

 

Skin on the Rope

by Valada Flewellyn

 

We all have skin on the rope

Whether a neck on the rope

Or a hand on the rope

We all have skin on the rope

The pain of that connection

Grips us, entangles us

 

Compels us to examine

Our history, then construct

Tomorrow to manifest the

Wounds that need

More than a band-aid

 

Wounds that warrant more

Than a cursory examination

We must dissect the

Fibers of our history

Inspect our suspect

Moral Consciousness

 

Which allows sin to fester

As we turn our heads

Away from the atrocities

That grab our children

Drowning them in the muck

Of our making

 

Leaving them unprepared

Unprotected but infected

Generation after generation

From our refusal to acknowledge

 

How we have Failed

Our children . . . All

 

We ALL have skin on the rope.

January 28, 2020   

 

Crafting Our Pledges

Ending systemic racism starts with taking responsibility. Each of us must craft his or her own pledge, beginning with the word “I.” Valada and I encourage WP Voice readers to craft their own pledges. We will begin the conversation by giving you ours.

Charley Williams’ Pledge:

I commit to learning more about the root causes of racism, how it spreads, how I enable it and how it is incorporated into life-damaging policies on things like voting, education, access to health care and mass incarceration. I will listen. I will call out racial bias when I see it. It starts with me.

Charley Williams, Voting  Advocate

Valada Flewellyn’s Pledge:

I pledge to support my white neighbors, colleagues, friends and family who are courageous enough to pledge themselves to ending racism in this country.  I pledge to listen to, to pray, not to hold either the white race or my own race harmless for how long we have allowed this evil to exist in our society to the detriment of our children.

Valada Flewellyn, Poet

Addressing Our Past

First, It is imperative that we address past atrocities, which have for too long been swept beneath the rug of history — Wilmington, NC (1898), Ocoee, FL (1920), Tulsa/Greenwood, OK (1921), Rosewood, FL (1923), Groveland, FL (1951). The Equal Justice Institute’s (EJI) research shows that over a 73-year period, from 1877 to 1950, more than 4,000 racial lynchings were conducted in the South. That’s the equivalent of one lynching per day for 11 years. Enough.

We Need to Know Our Own History

The outrage is real and deep. Up until 1950, only whites could vote in a City of Orlando primary election, which was controlled by a Florida Democratic Party organization called the ‘White Voters Executive Committee.’

Our single biggest challenge is that we don’t know our own history. It’s time to face it.
This history belongs to every one of us. No one can escape. The horrific legacy of lynching and racial terror continues to haunt and plague us. White people have constructed and maintained this centuries-old institutionalized racism; therefore, it only makes sense that, with the help and cooperation of our black friends and neighbors, the whites must shoulder the brunt of the burden of dismantling it. But no one community can do this alone. We all need help from one another.

We must face our shadow stories, state our personal pledges, encourage and engage in the “courageous conversations.” Please join us now as we learn to listen, strive to learn and learn to act. Together, we can create a future that is our gift to our children and our grandchildren.

 

Valada Flewellyn is a poet and the author of “For the Children: The History of Jack and Jill of America, Incoporated.”

Charley William is past President of the Orange County League of Women Voters.

Flewellyn and Williams are Founding members of Alliance for Truth and Justice, a volunteer group started in 2015 to research the Ocoee Voting Day Massacre of 1920, in cooperation with the Equal Justice Initiative, headquartered in Montgomery, Alabama. More at www.ocoeemassacre.com

 

 

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WP Masker Aid

WP Masker Aid

WP Masker Aid

Winter Park Masks Strong Unmasks WP Generosity

by Anne Mooney / May 22, 2020

In a feel-good story all its own, two former arch-rivals, Kim Allen and Sandy Womble, have joined forces to lead a loosely organized, organically grown group of local volunteers to sew and distribute cotton masks. It’s called Winter Park Masks Strong. According to the mask makers, together Kim and Sandy form “the glue” that holds the effort together and keeps it moving. They even have a Facebook page – Winter Park FL Masks Strong. Go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/228128931582495/

Two Hundred Masks?

Ruth Heine

It began for Ruth Heine on March 22nd, when she received a call from Father John Bluett of St. Stephens. He knew Ruth was an accomplished seamstress and he asked if she would sew some cotton masks — 200 of them – for Seminole County Health Department healthcare workers.

Ruth said, at first, she couldn’t conceive of making so many masks. She consulted YouTube, found the information she needed and whipped out those 200 masks in two or three days. Gaining momentum, Ruth called her friends and began taking requests for masks. She then sent an email blast to the Orlando Garden Club to offer masks.

Almost 1,000 Masks Later . . .

Initially, the masks were made from materials Ruth had on hand. Soon, however, she found materials, especially quarter-inch flat elastic, difficult to find. Word of the shortage reached Pat Estes, who had retreated to Kentucky to be near family during the pandemic. Pat went to her local sewing supply store, found 28 yards of elastic and sent it to Ruth. In a gesture of gratitude, Ruth sent 35 masks to Pat’s daughter-in-law’s veterinary practice in upstate New York. As of this writing, Ruth had made just over 900 masks.

“I will probably hit 1,000 masks if the demand continues and the need is still there,” she said. “I can make about 25 a day. The most I’ve done is around 40.” Recently Winter Park Masks Strong delivered 130 of Ruth’s masks to workers at Vitas Hospice.

Winter Park Masks Strong

Kim Allen and Sandy Womble brought Ruth into their Winter Park Masks Strong group of 15 or 16 men and women who are making masks for people and organizations all over the city. The group describes itself as a band of Winter Park residents who care deeply for our community. A letter included with each bag of masks delivered states, “These masks are for you from our tribe.”

Members of the Tribe Come and Go

Usually, says Kim Allen, when one steps out another steps in to take his or her place. Pannullo’s and Armando’s restaurants got masks made by Melody Cortez from the Blue Bamboo Center for the Arts. A la Scarlet O’Hara, Melody made over 200 masks out of black curtains she had on hand. Patty Pope made 52 masks for the Winter Park Day Nursery, which stayed open to care for children of essential workers. Christine Girand started making masks, and soon enlisted the help of Jan Hommel and other neighbors.

Ad Hoc Group of Volunteers

Peter Gottfried Gets Some Help from Sponge Bob

People who don’t sew also help. Kim Burst Wood donated designer fabric. Melanie Love and Missy Cassell-Hamby donated bolts of fabric. Kim Allen and Peter Gottfried have cut over 30 yards of fabric. Some volunteers cut, some sew and some deliver.

At first, everyone was doing their own thing, depending upon which YouTube video they consulted. People raided their own supplies of fabric, elastic and thread. The materials acquisition part of the effort sent volunteers on nation-wide searches for supplies. Materials came from friends as far away as Oklahoma and Kentucky. Masculine-looking fabric was in high demand, especially after Melody Cortez ran out of black curtains.

 

Mask Design Becomes Standardized

Now volunteers are making one pattern with pleats. The pattern comes from the Sewing Studio in Maitland. The fabric, elastic and nose pieces come in kits to be assembled by sewers. Fabric is washed and pre-shrunk and put into cellophane envelopes along with elastic. Two different fabric patterns ensure the wearer knows which side should go toward the face.

City Hall Workers Get Peacock Masks

Kim Allen and Sandy Womble provided masks made of peacock fabric to Winter Park City Hall workers. Retired Advent Health nurse Trudy Mitchell delivered masks to workers from ANGCO Highway Stripping who were working on the I-4 Ultimate.

Ruth Heine, who will quantify anything, says, “You can get two masks out of one yard of elastic. Two yards of 44-inch-wide fabric will yield 24 masks. All of this is by word of mouth,” she went on. “People I don’t even know have contacted me. I even did a mask for a four-year-old.”

“You’d have thought I was handing out $50 bills!”

Kim Allen recalls walking along Park Avenue, offering masks to restaurant workers who were filling to-go orders. “You’d have thought I was handing out fifty-dollar bills,” she said. “Those people were just thrilled to get masks.” Kim ended up handing out masks to workers at places including Prato, Luma, Umi, Panera, Carrie’s Café and Go Gelato.

Pandemic Politics

When she was asked about the controversy that has arisen about wearing masks, Kim replied simply, “You wear your seatbelt when you drive, don’t you?”

“I feel this is one thing we have in common – to keep each other safe – regardless of our other beliefs,” said Ruth Heine.

3,000 Masks Later

Since March, this group of volunteers has made and distributed nearly 3,000 masks. It has all been by word of mouth. WP Masks Strong is not incorporated, but they will accept donations, as materials are surprisingly expensive. A single spool of thread, for instance, can cost as much as $5.00. To donate, contact kimberleallen@gmail.com

Or go to their Facebook page, Winter Park FL Masks Strong, and say thanks.

 

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Happy Mother’s Day!

Happy Mother’s Day!

City Hosts Special Mother’s Day Weekend

by Anne Mooney / May 6, 2020

May 8 – 10, the City is hosting a special Mother’s Day weekend of socially-distanced restaurant dining and limited retail therapy.

Streets Closed for Distance Dining and Shopping-Withdrawal Relief

To facilitate safe outdoor dining, portions of Park Ave., Morse Blvd. and New England Ave. will be closed to vehicular traffic from 4:00 pm Friday, May 8, to 11:00 pm Sunday, May 10.

Park Ave. from Swoope to Fairbanks

New England Ave. between Pennsylvania and Virginia Ave.

Morse Blvd. between Center St. and New York Ave.

 

All Shops & Restaurants May Participate

Outdoor shopping and dining is not limited to Park Ave. and Hannibal Square, however. Any retail store or restaurant within the City limits may apply for a permit from the City to extend their business outside. The permit is good only through the weekend.

Restaurants and shops must maintain the 6-foot required distance between patrons outside and limit inside occupancy to 25 percent of capacity.

Mini-Sidewalk Sales

Retail shops must also adhere to the 25-percent-capacity rule, but they may also have a single merchandise rack or table on the sidewalk outside the shop.

Each business will bear the responsibility of ensuring its customers meet social distancing requirements at all times. “As we continue to take methodical steps to reopen the City following the State guidelines, we are hosting this special weekend to help our business community and to give the public a chance to support our local businesses and celebrate Mother’s Day,” said Assistant City Manager Michelle Neuner.

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