Winter Park passes $208 million budget
Mayor also provides update on the city’s plan to extend and expand the CRA
Sept. 29, 2023
By Beth Kassab
Winter Park City Commissioners gave final approval Wednesday to a $208 million budget, a $9.5 million increase over last year.
City Manager Randy Knight proposed a last minute change, which won consensus from the board, to drop the city’s federal lobbyist and hire a grant writer, a move that he said will bring “more bang for our buck.” The city’s $6,500 per month contract with Thorn Run Partners will end.
The second and final budget hearing brought little public debate. Two residents complained that the commission is too “progressive” with “out-of-control spending.”
Gigi Papa, who frequently attends the public meetings, urged more people to run for office, noting that the two commissioners up for re-election earlier this year — Sheila DeCiccio and Marty Sullivan — did not face any opposition.
Mayor Phil Anderson, who is up for re-election in March, but is not expected to run again, addressed some of the concerns. He explained that inflation and increased labor costs are the biggest drivers of the budget increase as the city sought to add positions such as in the police department in order to maintain the same level of service to residents.
One person complained that the city’s efforts to underground powerlines are still not complete even as spending has increased on the library and other projects.
Anderson noted that the undergrounding is still underway and delays are not related to a shortage of funds, but long supply lags for transformers and other in-demand equipment.
“We’re not undercapitalized, we can do it,” Anderson said. “We just don’t have the materials to allow us to complete it.”
Anderson and Knight also provided a short update about a recent meeting with Orange County Commissioner Emily Bonilla, who represents Winter Park.
They said she was receptive to the city’s proposal to extend and expand its Community Redevelopment Agency or the special tax district centered on downtown that is scheduled to end in 2027.
Winter Park leaders want to continue the district beyond that and expand its boundaries (see above map for proposal), but that plan must be approved by the county. The decision will be critical to the city’s future considering the CRA is a key source of budget revenue such as providing $350,000 additional dollars next year to expand the hours and services at the library.
Anderson noted that Bonilla and county officials will want to see solid proposals to address affordable housing and transportation needs with those dollars. A consultant is preparing a report for the city and the application for the extension is expected to be considered by the county in the Spring.
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