How will Winter Park pay for future? Here are three options
Sale of the old Winter Park Library could be back on the table as commissioners mull large infrastructure needs
By Beth Kassab
Winter Park commissioners heard an overview from City Manager Randy Knight about how they might pay for big-ticket items such as transportation improvements, flood control and new fire stations in the coming years, though the immediate consensus seemed to be that there is not enough time to prepare a bond referendum for the March 2024 ballot.
That means the earliest voters might be asked to approve taking on more debt for city projects would be 2025 unless the commission opts for a special election or off-cycle mail ballot.
Mayor Phil Anderson noted that the city is contemplating about $100 million worth of transportation projects, including SunRail, sidewalks and road improvements, on top of about $20 million in flood and stormwater control, that are left without funding after Orange County voters rejected the penny sales tax last year. Another estimated $10 million will be needed for new fire stations resulting from increased demand from the mixed-use Ravaudage development and potential new annexations near Interstate 4.
“These are big things that need big plans,” Anderson said at the Wednesday meeting. “That’s really why we have asked Mr. Knight to come forward with different options. I don’t know if any are ripe for a bond issue in March.”
In addition to a bond referendum, commissioners could also opt to raise property taxes, a move they weren’t willing to make during a recent debate about next year’s budget.
More likely is the extension and expansion of the Community Redevelopment Agency, a special district that siphons off a portion of tax revenue increases to reinvest back into the district. But that change must be approved by the Orange County Commission before the CRA sunsets in 2027. City staff said it’s difficult to estimate how much a new CRA would generate in additional revenue until the boundaries are settled.
Finally, Knight noted that the commission could decide to sell the old library property on New England Avenue or the city’s tree farm to generate more cash. In a discussion earlier this year, commissioners voiced opposition to selling the old library and instead issued an RFP asking developers to come forward with new ideas for the property by Nov. 30.
But there are some early indications that opinions about selling the old library could be changing. Commissioner Marty Sullivan asked Knight if the RFP, which asked for proposals by Nov. 30, would prevent such a sale, and Knight said commissioners could cancel the RFP if they were so inclined.
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