property taxes

CRA Approves its budget 7-0

News Analysis

By a 3-2 vote the Apopka City Council approved a millage rate of 3.7876, and its 2016-17 fiscal year budget of $104,083,516 passed by a 4-1 vote. In between those two decisions, the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) board voted 7-0 to approve its budget of $2.05 million. Those were the black and white results of the final budget hearing. However a lot of things happened during this seven month marathon to get the City Council to these results.

First read what Commissioner Diane Velazquez said about the amount of time this Council put into the budget process.

 Commissioner Diane Velazquez: ""I just wanted to add that I'm disappointed with the two commissioners who voted no, because we spent five workshops with 4-5 hours on each and we literally went page-by-page and expense-by-expense. So much time was dedicated to this not just by us but by staff... and here we are at a 3-2 vote."
Commissioner Diane Velazquez: “When I expressed my disappointment, I felt there was enough time in-between (meetings) to have addressed some kind of clarification regarding budget and millage.”

“We had five budget meetings. They lasted 21 hours, 18 minutes and 17 seconds. There were 21 days between the last budget workshop and the first public hearing. There were 14 business days that City Hall was open in that period. When I expressed my disappointment, I felt there was enough time in-between to have addressed some kind of clarification regarding budget and millage… and so when we sat for the first hearing I was surprised at the vote.”

Velazquez was disappointed that the Council could not reach a 5-0 result and stand side-by-side on the final product. It appeared that’s how it would go after a 5-0 consent vote at the last workshop meeting in August, and that is a valid reaction after the amount of time and effort put in.

However consent in a workshop and an official final vote are two different things in Commissioner Doug Bankson’s opinion.

“All of the different points brought up were things I was in opposition to,” said Bankson. But there are times when we move forward by consensus and that’s how we have to work. At our last workshop my understanding was that we would be putting all that excess back into the reserves. I was at peace with that and didn’t realize I needed to get further clarification because I thought it was clear.”

Bankson is a budget hawk. In his campaign he ran primarily on fiscal responsibility, budget issues, low taxes and reserves management. It was a likely conclusion that a budget which includes raising millage rates and taking funds out of the reserve would merit a no-vote from him.

He also thought it was important to listen to the public comments before making his final decision.

Commissioner Doug Bankson: "ommisioner Doug Bankson: "My understanding was that all of the increase would go back in to the reserves so that we weren't taking them out of the reserves and it doesn't look like that's happening here so that's my concern."
Commissioner Doug Bankson: “We’re not any other city. We’re us. We have to function as we function.”

“My understanding is that hearings are for the public to be heard. It’s not simply for us to have two times to say ‘this is what we’ve already decided’. But that through the hearings we would get added input from the citizens of whom this is their money… and then make those decisions. I did not see this as a closed event.”

Commissioner Billie Dean was also a part of the 5-0 consensus vote at the workshops, but was clearly influenced by public comments. At both meetings, Dean echoed points made by public speakers. To the very end, Dean was calling for cuts and questioning parts of the budget that were discussed in detail at the workshops. Every item he mentioned combined would represent less than one-percent of the budget, but he argued for the cuts with passion to say the least.

Mayor Joe Kilsheimer displayed passion that matched Dean both at workshops and at the two City Council meetings. He detailed the work put into this budget not only by the Council, but the effort of City staff led by City Administrator Glenn Irby and Finance Director Pamela Barclay.

“The budget as proposed by the administration… by Pam, by Glenn is the compilation of work that began last February. Our department heads submitted budgets and there were requests and we cut millions of dollars from what our department heads said they needed to operate their budget at what they consider to be a reasonable level. And let me reinforce the point that virtually all of our department heads live in the city of Apopka. They are members of this community. The majority of our department heads have worked for the City of Apopka for their entire careers, and they’re not spendthrifts. They don’t come to Glenn and Pam with wild budget ideas. They come to Glenn and Pam and say ‘this is what we need to run the city responsibly’.”

Kilsheimer is a full-time mayor that works with this staff on a daily basis. In his two-and-a-half years in office, he has become fiercely loyal and protective of them. That loyalty showed up in his defense of the budget expenditures, and in his focus on Apopka’s future.

Mayor Joe Kilsheimer: "All of this was worked out in the workshops."
Mayor Joe Kilsheimer: “The one policy guideline I have given to staff is ‘we need to be thinking about how we can set up Apopka for success’.”

“The one policy guideline I have given to staff is ‘we need to be thinking about how we can set Apopka up for success’,” Kilsheimer said. “We’ve got growth coming at us. When the Wekiva Parkway opens in 2021 growth is going to hit us like a tsunami. And we need to be ready in a public safety perspective. We need to be ready in a public services perspective. That’s why one of the things we’re doing with this budget is launching construction of a new wastewater treatment plant… which in itself is a $50-million project that will take several years to construct. Not a single thing in this budget in my opinion is frivolous or unnecessary. It’s all an investment in our community. We’re investing in Apopka in order to prepare ourselves for the future. That’s why we had to swallow hard this year, and say we need to do things like build a fire station. We can’t risk our ISO-1 rating. We have to build a communications tower on the north side of town. We’ve got firefighters and police officers that when they go into a house on the north said of town they lose communication. That’s a disaster waiting to happen. And to imply that somehow we are spendthrifts is to me…I find it insulting to the staff and to the City of Apopka because it is our professionals who are coming to tell us ‘this is what we need to run our departments on a professional basis’.”

Commissioner Kyle Becker is a business analyst… he’s a numbers guy. He dug deep into this 700-plus page budget like some of us would tear into a page-turning novel. He came to the City Council budget meetings comfortable with the higher millage rate, with the idea of using reserves to balance the budget and the specific expenditures of the budget. In his usual style, Becker listened to public and City Council comments, and then delivered his rebuttal to the budget’s critics.

“If we don’t move in accord with our population growth and what our residents expect in service we will fail,” he said. “And it is worth mentioning that our taxes are low… even at 3.7876 it’s 12% lower than Winter Garden, 33% lower than Maitland, 16% lower than Belle Isle, 15% lower than Winter Park, 71% lower than Ocoee, 75% lower than Orlando, 43% lower than Altamonte Springs, 45% lower than Longwood, 93% lower than Sanford, and 28% lower than Winter Springs… and I will tell you that we have better services than any of those I just mentioned and what that tells us is that our staff is working at a very lean rate, and very successful with the resources that they have available to them. If our employees aren’t being paid like they are in other cities, then they’re going to go to those other cities. We are going to lose talent. People are going to leave. What positions are we willing to go without if we freeze our spending? It’s not realistic in my opinion. But I get what all of you are saying. No one up here says ‘we want to spend more money’. And a lot of these things are subjective in terms of importance or whether they are vital to our city… but obviously a lot of our bigger expenditures this year go directly to public safety. Some of these things we could debate all night whether the city should be spending on the festivals or this or that, but I’m in a good place of comfort having gone through what we discussed…going through this budget page-by-page. I think that it’s in a good spot.”

Commissioner Kyle Becker: ""I think we reduced some of these costs through the workshop sessions, but I think all of us up here know it was abundantly clear we want to reduce the amount we take from reserves and we don't want to raise the millage rate unless it's absolutely necessary,"
Commissioner Kyle Becker: “If we don’t move in accord with our population growth and what our residents expect in service, we will fail.”

Bankson saw common ground with Becker, but the reserve ratio still concerns him.

“I do agree with Commissioner Becker. There are things that have been left too long that we have to address and that’s something we cannot ignore. I’m a very fair-minded person. I believe and I was convinced there are things we cannot do without. We have to build a (communications) tower. We have to do certain things. My concern is the next few years beyond this. And this is why my sticking point is to make sure we’re looking at those reserves. We’re not any other city. We’re us. We have to function as we function. In Winter Park they have a different set of structures and resources, however they have reserves at 24.6% with a goal to reach 30%. I’d like to see us move more in that direction.”

Not everyone was in a good place after the voting concluded. Velazquez wanted unity. Bankson wanted more money put back into reserves. Dean wanted additional cuts. Many public speakers wanted the millage rate to stay the same as it was in 2015-16. No one got everything they wanted in this budget. That is usually the way a good negotiation goes.

Here is what everyone did get though.

The City Council met five times with city staff and department leaders for 20-plus hours. They went page-by-page through the budget. They argued. They debated. They agreed. They negotiated. They cut department spending in certain places, and they accepted their proposals in others. The major expenditures – public safety, additional firefighters and police officers, a fire station and a communications tower were agreed upon with unanimous support.

They also had a great debate on millage rates, reserve management and how to balance those with economic development and the future trajectory of Apopka.

And the public was given two opportunities to weigh-in, and they did so with their usual spirit and candor. City Commissioners took their thoughts seriously to the point of starting debates on the Council level that originated from a public speaker that engaged not only commissioners and the mayor, but city staff as well. In a way, the budgeting process worked exactly as it was supposed to. Consensus moved the final outcome, but no one’s opinions or thoughts were discounted…and in the end the City Council passed a budget on time.

And in the oddest of ways, this budget process seemed to bond the City Council despite significant disagreement on certain issues. Read these statements by Kilsheimer and Bankson:

“We’re not perfect up here by any stretch of the imagination,” said Kilsheimer. “I’m not making any claims that we’re perfect. And we will make mistakes. But we are all, in my opinion, honest people doing an honest day’s work… trying to do the best for our city as we see fit.”

“I think everyone’s intention is sincere,” said Bankson. I think everyone is working hard, and here we are.”

Here we are indeed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

36 COMMENTS

  1. When is the new Community Economic Developer coming in, after the Nov. 8th, election? Does the city really need both a Community Development Director and a Community Economic Director too? Someone must think this is NYC.

  2. Yes, I see on another Apopka Facebook Website that another citizen has been encountered by the diaper guy at the US Toys shopping center. He comes up to you and stands way back and says, ” Hello, I just want to talk to you a minute, I am not asking for money, or anything like that, I just got a favor to ask of you, can you go into that store over there, and buy me a box of diapers”………..what in the world, is this guy’s deal? LOL.

  3. There is also one, a heavy set young boy, that is at the 436 Race Track gas station, and he comes up and claims that he and his dad were riding around town, and that his dad was skunk drunk and that he refused to ride with him, because he was so drunk and that he just needs some money for a bus ticket to get back home. I asked him are you alone here, and he said yes, and I asked him how much is a bus ticket, and he told me, and I said well, I don’t have that much on me right now, but here is a little bit of change, and then later I saw him with a whole bunch of people “working the people coming in to buy things”……..and hanging out in the edge woods.

  4. Once there was one hanging out on the corner of Hunt Club and 436, and he had a old looking hound dog with him, and the way I am about animals, I felt sorry for him. I was feeling particularly happy that day and generous and I had six bucks left on me that I was going to buy my dogs some cans of food, but I stopped and gave it to him, and he pulled out his wallet and opened it up, and it had plenty of money in it, he put the bills in his wallet, and he acted like it was nothing, and he didn’t even say thanks. I said I will remember him, and he will not get anything from me again, fool me once, but you won’t fool me again, my mistake. He had blonde -reddish short hair and a reddish complexion. I do try to help some people, if I think they need it, and I have a little extra on hand, but then there are these kinds of deplorables, and you have to just ignore them, the known scammers.

  5. One of the worst places in Apopka for the panhandlers hanging out is the gas station next to McDonalds up town between McDonalds and Taco Bell. It was BP but is now Circle K, I think. My husband stops in to get cigarettes, but I tell him go somewhere else, as it is ridiculous there are so many hanging there. The other day there were droves of them, and one was bumming cigs, and the other one was fishing old cigarette butts out of the ash tray on top of the garbage can and smoking what was left of other people’s cigarette butts. Gross! And bumming for money, the people who were stopping in. I told my husband don’t you even think of stopping in there at night to get cigarettes. Race Track on 436 bad too, as well as US Toys Shopping Center.

  6. I have bought Maryland Fried Chicken dinners to a handicapped couple I saw bumming at the Walmart parking lot. At least I know that they didn’t get booze or drugs. But if I find out someone is running a regular scam and not needy as they claim, forget it, I won’t give them anything. The “so-called panhandling designated area” in the City of Apopka, where the sign is uptown, is the biggest joke around. That is the area they don’t go to, ever! They go everywhere else but there! Have you ever ever seen a person bumming there, I haven’t???

  7. And if you think the panhandling is bad now around Apopka, just wait to the weather turns cold and they start coming in from up north in droves!

  8. Just saw this big sunflower farm on tv this morning that is huge and is planted in the maze style like the corn fields are. It spells out something or some kind of design very intricate when viewing it from the air. Nice big tall sunflowers in bloom and I suppose some in seed heads. I want to go there. The lady that was telling about it was teary- eyed and said that it was her father’s dream and that he had it planted, but he has since passed away. It is over in Brevard, at Mims. I want to go so badly. I love to ride over that way from the back roads of Sanford, past the airport, and see all of the beautiful flowering swamp hibiscus blooming and growing wild out on the swampy flat plains and look out over the undeveloped wetlands over to the coast. I am going to see if I can find something about this sunflower farm on google, as I didn’t catch all the details this morning when it was on, but it looks so impressive from the air!!! They said only 5 bucks I think to roam around in there. Yes, my kind of place! Void of a lot of people and beautiful flowers and nature!

  9. Dear God, I try not to be political on this presidential stuff, but I can’t resist this. Trump at one of his rallies, said if you are terminally ill, you should get to the polls on Nov. 8th, and vote for him, because you will be gone by the end of November! This man is a crazy fool! What an egotistical manic! If he thinks that someone, that is terminally ill, and that their world should be centered on him, he is crazier than a fox! What a jerk! A total idiot!

  10. Google in Mims Sunflower Maze…..beautiful. 4 acres, flowers are sunflowers and sun hemp. Large groups of school kids go to it, and the aerial design was planned without GPS or special software, all done with a drawing on paper, the old fashioned way, I don’t know how she did it! The daughter is the one who planted it in her father’s memory, not the dad as I thought, but it was his dream. The father passed away in Dec. from cancer. They also have strawberries and other items throughout the year.

  11. i know this is off the subject but did you read about that one sheriff’s deputy that went to an apartment, and I don’t know what went on that led to the climax of the incident, but the cop tased a woman, then jumped on her, and kneed her in the chest, and yanked out the taser prongs, and left her injured and hurting, and went and reported to his bosses, that he had accidentally fired the taser into a pillow at his home???????? He then later went to his home and baked the woman a cake????? and decorated it the best he could, I assume, with two stick figures representing people and had black icing stringed to represent the taser wires, and then went and presented his apology gift to the lady……..HELLO….. she was not too happy, to say the least, and has sued…….he must of been coo, coo for cocoa puf!fs??????????? Good lord…………!!! Have you ever heard anything so crazy????? Yeah, bake me a cake, baby!!

  12. To those wondering what the new slogan should be for the City of Apopka, well, I couldn’t think of the anything, but I am still fascinated with the closed caption (cc) on my cell phone and just how it translates the city council meetings and what is said. The new slogan………per the cc……..the City of Apopka is the City of Papas. Signs should be erected right now……Welcome to the City of Papas. Anybody Greek, here? Has that Greek sound to it, and would be great for Father’s Day. I live in the City of Papas, and some Mamas here too!

  13. Those squirrels living in the old oak trees around Home Depot in Apopka have very selective tastes. If you go through the drive thru and pull over near the oak trees to eat, those squirrels come a running over and stand up on their hind legs and beg. Beggars everywhere in this town, two- legged and four- legged ones too. Dig into your bag of fries, and toss them some, and they look at you like WTH, I want something off the premium menu, idiot, not the value menu!!! Selective little beggars!

  14. Hello everyone…….Happy New Year for The City of Apopka, Oct. 1, 2016…..the new fiscal new year for the city’s budget and operations. Let’s start by letting some of those council members know that they have just whined about the 22 hours they put in at the budget workshops a little too much. I have the Apopka Chief in my hand, on page 10 A of the Sept. 30, 2016 newspaper there is a ad by the Apopka Chamber of Commerce for their support of the Orange County Charter Review and their final determinations as to what will be put on the ballot for the citizens to vote on. Interesting. Very interesting………I will continue………..

  15. Apparently there are 15 people on the Orange County Charter Review Commission. All citizens of Orange County. I do not know who they are, I haven’t looked it up yet. Okay some of Apopka’s commissioners keep on about the 22 hours that they showed up and worked on the budget at the budget workshops, plus other times on their own and at council meetings in Apopka. This Orange County Charter Review Commission worked from Feb. 12, 2015 through June 21, 2016, had a total of 84 meetings, including 13 regular monthly business/ full CRC meetings, 65 workgroup meetings, and 6 designated advertised public hearings……Hello……..that is a lot of meetings, and hours, and just look at some of Apopka’s whiny council members about how hard they worked, blah, blah, blah………….Plus I am certain some had to drive way over to Orlando to meet as it is a big county!

  16. Since you all raised the property taxes on our citizens and still are going to strip money away from the city reserves, you all should have went back to the drawing board and worked another 22 hours until you all got it right!

  17. Even more interesting is what I see in this ad. There is a part in this ad that you will NEVER, EVER see in Apopka if they ever have another charter review committee, and that part of Orange County’s Charter Review Committee is this: Whereas, the CRC, is authorized to place amendments and revisions to the Orange County Charter on the general election ballot that DO NOT REQUIRE APPROVAL from the Board of Orange County Commissioners……HELLO! (Even if the members are the commissioners friends) Can you imagine that in Apopka???????

  18. So there will be some amendments to the Orange County Charter to be voted on Nov. 8, by the citizens of Orange County to approve or disapprove. I don’t understand them right now. One is messing with the petition process, change the constitutional officers to charter officers, provide for non-partisan elections, and term limits, preserve term limits, and non-partisan elections, and for county constitutional officers and charter officers…….I will have to learn more about these amendments.

  19. Another amendment the CRC in Orange County had is about safeguarding citizens against out-of-state special interests……let’s put the petition process of getting signatures in lieu of paying filing fees in Apopka and let’s have term limits!!!!…..Hahahahaha!!!!!!! Wheee!!!! When pigs fly……………..!!!

  20. I sure wanted some of those wonderful looking cupcakes at the new bakery but I am not suppose to eat that stuff with my out of control sugar levels……I wonder if she bakes any sugar-free stuff?????? It is hard to resist those kind of things that I love, but my doctor has warned me, big time!

  21. I saw Sammy R. and his wife at the new bakery and he was buying two packs of cupcakes……if I had of bought that many, I would have ate them all, and went into sugar shock, and I would be laid out in lavender probably!! Aren’t you all sorry I didn’t do that???? LOL!

  22. We rode out toward Ingram Road and saw the new subdivisions that have came in…..Apopka Woods in the city, and the other across from the city subdivision, the county one, I can’t remember the name of it, but it was Ryan homes. Came out on the road where Whitt’s store used to be, and there was a Ryan homes sign that stated new homes in the Ocoee community, and I thought that was strange as that subdivision was right across from the Apopka Woods subdivision of the City of Apopka. I suppose there will be fighting between Ocoee and Apopka soon if they aren’t already fighting about the lands near the new hospital.

  23. Came down Lakeville Road by the Lakeville Elementary School and the middle school and on by the Orange County’s water treatment plant facility and saw that behind the gates, they had a security guard in a truck parked right inside the gate, that said security on the side of the truck. This leads me to wonder if maybe our water treatment plants should have security after hours, when the regular water treatment operators are not there working, because of the terrorism happening in our nation??? I know the plants have alarms, but still think maybe security might be a good idea. ?????????

  24. I saw the city’s website of the mural artist who painted the new Tijuana Flats mural on the wall. That iguna is he drinking a beer or hot sauce??? Maybe he alternates the two….???

  25. Looked at the long packet of the next council meeting and read the letter from the family of Mayor Land, that was a nicely written letter. I saw the photos of the statues of Mayor Land and this time they didn’t look pink, like before, they looked like milk chocolate! Like the mayor was cast in milk chocolate! The light they were in, no doubt…….

  26. Also saw where the turkey federation people and Mr. H. want to have a dove hunt on city property……sickening, I don’t like it at all. Some people can’t have fun, unless they are killing animals. He can get mad at me all he wants, but I don’t think it is right. This city is a bird sanctuary, and is trying to promote eco-tourism, and they bait them up before time……I don’t care if it is for charity. I have seen the maimed and injured birds left after a hunt, and usually the kids come and run and pick them up and slam them into buckets or wretch their necks and throw them away. Doves, the birds of peace. Some bird sanctuary!

  27. How about the lobbyist that are to be approved by the city council this next council meeting coming up? THE law firm…….they got people everywhere in Florida! Just like Morgan and Morgan, everywhere…….did you look at the packet and see who else wanted the lobbyist job???? LOL……

  28. What about all these scary clowns popping up everywhere and scaring people? The latest fad to go viral, as they say………..

  29. If that dump on Keene Road gets any taller we might actually have a Mt. Everest in Florida. I think they started filling in another hole instead.

  30. Do you remember the Queen of Mean, the hotel magistrate socialite lady that her husband ran the hotel empire of NY? He died, and she took over, and they got her for income tax evasion, and she served time in prison. She had declared that, “only the little people pay taxes”……..well fast forward to 2016, and now we are finding out why Donald J. Trump has not released his tax returns……he may not of paid US income taxes for twenty years!!!! Doesn’t matter that the “little people like me or you” paid all that time…….that according to him, makes him smart. I say it makes him a crook! Willie Nelson, and Wesley Snipes got in trouble for the same thing and Snipes served time, and Willie, I don’t know if he served time, but he got into trouble and his fans put on a concert to raise money for his taxes to help him out. Trump is a deplorable!!!!

  31. Trump has a brand new hotel in Washington D. C. that has just opened. I wonder if we can expect the mayor and the city council to want to stay there at the Trump hotel when they go visit Washington D.C. to those conferences? Cheapest room varies from day to day, apparently their system at the Trump hotel is to charge whatever they can wrestle out of someone, and the prices don’t stay the same and vary. About $ 600 the cheapest room, and $ 18,000.00 per night for the best suite…..in the Trump hotel. Yes, that would diminish the city reserves real quickly…..LOL……..x 5 heading to the conference in Washington D. C. But the hotel guests get free Trump shampoo, and free Trump mouthwash, plus a mini fridge with a box of chocolates……..LOL !!!

  32. I am not sure I would even want to stay in one of those hotel rooms in Washington D.C…….who knows who slept there in those beds????…..Anthony Weiner might have slept there in those beds??????…ugh, LOL…..and I heard the bed bugs are really bad at some of even the nicest hotels in those big inner cities and bite badly…..LOL !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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