FY 2021 Budget Passes First Reading
Millage Rate Unchanged
Chickens Squeak Through
by Anne Mooney / September 10, 2020
Chickens will come home to roost
Despite emails indicating Winter Park was split down the middle on the backyard chicken question, the ordinance creating a two-year backyard chicken pilot program narrowly squeaked through its second and final reading on a 3-2 vote – with a few amendments.
Among the raft of amendments was reduction of maximum coop height to six feet, requirement for a fence to obscure the coop from neighbors and a requirement to obtain written permission from all neighbors whose property abuts the property with the chickens. A provision for 48-hour warning before inspections was removed, allowing Code Enforcement to make unannounced spot inspections. Coops can be in backyards only, not side yards. Chicken owners who receive repeated complaints will face escalating fines, and a “three-strikes-you’re-out” rule will remove the chicken owner from the program on the third complaint.
None of the current Commissioners will apply to keep backyard chickens.
Commission passes 2021 Budget, millage rate on First Reading
The FY 2021 Budget passed on a 5-0 vote with only one amendment, proposed by Commissioner Sheila DeCiccio, to grant up to 3.5 percent raises to City staff rather than freezing their salaries.
Mayor argues for rollback rate
The millage rate was kept at 4.0923 for the 13th year, despite arguments by Mayor Steve Leary to drop the millage to the rollback rate of 3.9509. The rolled-back rate represents the millage rate that would generate the same level of property tax revenue as the prior year, excepting growth due to inflation factor and new construction.
Dropping the millage rate to the rollback level would mean removing the contingency, but Leary said he felt comfortable the $17 million in reserves would cover any contingency.
Vice-Mayor: “Situation is too fluid.”
Vice-Mayor Carolyn Cooper disagreed. “I am not comfortable,” she said, “because the City is cutting services and curtailing and freezing staff. First, the City brought us a balanced, but curtailed budget. Then we were told that revenue projections were even lower, but that was followed by state projections that changed again.”
Cooper went on to point out just how fluid the situation might be. “Orange and Osceola Counties have a backlog of foreclosures stacked up until the moratorium is lifted. What happens then? What about people being evicted from apartments? And if empty property remains vacant, what will happen to property valuations? I believe it is prudent to hold back on costs and continue to accrue the same millage rate we have had for 12 years.”
The August 18 Orlando Business Journal noted Central Florida is still dealing with high unemployment and pandemic. “Orlando attorneys were prepared for a wave of evictions and foreclosures when the statewide moratorium neared expiration at the end of July.” According to the most recent data available, the unemployment rate for metro Orlando was 16.5 percent in June, while the rate in Florida was 10.7 percent.
The mayor is simply playing games. Knowing he has no support from the other 4 commissioners, he wasted everyone’s time show boating by injecting poor ideas intended to make himself look better than everyone else in the room. Isn’t it counter intuitive economically, given a decrease in city revenue to roll back the millage rate?
If you ever want to teach a civics lesson on poor leadership Mayor Leary’s term would be a prime example. He spent the last 9 years working as a lobbyist for special interests and developers while completely ignoring the taxpaying voters. This arrogance led to a wave of citizen-friendly commissioners eliminating his power.
So now he wastes everyone’s time promoting silly ideas knowing they won’t pass. Grow up Mayor Leary.
Response to Tax Clown Reply: Amen
Cooper has valid concerns over the scope of financial losses due to the COVID 19. Thankfully she now has support from her peers instead of the 10 years of grating, utter torture we witnessed as the 3 amigos ignored her intelligent input on city issues.
Alas, from this meeting we now know that Sprinkel’s mayoral campaign kick-off messages coming from the 3 amigos were misleading junk. Voters deserve honesty. I would expect that from Pitt Weldon.
Commissioner Carolyn Cooper has always been one Commissioner for years who has showed reason and foresight. I am happy & relieved Winter Parkers are now noticing and speaking out about her gifts and how she has used them and continues to use them in all her hard work for Winter Park and the residents. Be happy we have Vice-Mayor & Commissioner Carolyn Cooper. Read her Bio on the City’s site.
Commissioner Carolyn Cooper made a valid point that I agree with. I really like that with her statement, she clearly pointed out concerns about the future given that we are in a pandemic era and cannot continue doing business as usual. People are suffering during these times and I am grateful that Commissioner Cooper pointed that out.