On Tuesday morning, Apopka Mayor Joe Kilsheimer delivered his second State of the City Address at the Highland Manor. Friends, family, supporters, City employees, and elected officials turned out for the 30-minute speech, which outlined the City’s accomplishments in 2017, and a roadmap for 2018 and the future.
Two members of the City Council were at the State of the City Address, and shared their thoughts on the speech with The Apopka Voice – Commissioners Doug Bankson, and Diane Velazquez.
And while both commissioners agreed on much of the visioning and accomplishments, there was also contrasting viewpoints.
“What I heard was both a positive and achievable message,” said Velazquez. “It is my opinion that the mayor, the city administration, and city staff are organizing and putting together a plan that falls within our budget without placing cautionary concerns on the city’s budget or reserves. The city administration and staff have done a great job
addressing these projects, sometimes under time constraints, and having to balance and take into consideration the concerns from residents, business people and others involved in city affairs. I am excited about the opening of the new Florida Hospital. With the upcoming development of the City Center Project and projected presentation of the first phase of the downtown area, the hotel will lead the approaching inception of the project. This economic growth will give many of our residents the opportunity to live, work and have entertainment in the community. Our community is organically growing and becoming a destination for families and new businesses. Additionally, the Wekiva Parkway or 429, the Kelly Park Interchange, and the interest of business investors seeking to gain entrance into Apopka’s growth is all a major plus for our city. My responsibility as your commissioner is to ensure that the best interest is for the City of Apopka and its residents. It is very important to proceed with Integrity, diligence and with consideration to “all” residents calling Apopka their home.”
Bankson too was excited about certain elements of the Address but differed with Kilsheimer on his approach to spending, taxes, and reserves.
“The mayor’s state of the city address was an exciting time to look at the steps forward we are making as a city. The opening of our new Apopka Hospital is paramount in our minds as the newest and tallest addition to the Apopka skyline. This is a mutual effort more than ten years in the making, and a monument to both our past and our future.
We are blessed to be in position at the right time in history to ride the wave of national and local economic recovery. Stewarding our growth is the most important fiscal responsibility we have as elected officials, and creating a sustainable trajectory has been my mantra.
Along with the continuing development of the northwestern beltway, we are beginning to see the effects of recovery which will continue to bring in the amenities that help position us further as an attractive environment for expansion. All the while, it is a vigil to keep the family-friendly atmosphere that sets us apart as the best place to live and raise our families.
While the speech was an opportunity to highlight the best things we have accomplished, the mayor’s visible nod in my direction when mentioning our financial discussions at the city council meetings (referring to our need for a reserve policy most notably) gives me a friendly license to nod back.
As was mentioned, we began the year at 20% of reserves, but in actuality, the most recent budget passed required us to further decrease them to 18%, and that is before feeling the full effects of our storm reparations. And though this partially funds our fire department expansion, we will still have to fully staff our stations and find a way to build fire station six which is generously given a temporary station at Florida Hospitals former construction center.
The point for me is not to rain on anyone’s parade, but rather to say that many of the decisions made have still to be paid for and won’t be felt until well into the next year, which generates my concerns going forward.
We reduced reserves, borrowed, and yes, raised taxes this year to balance the budget, all the while putting off many needed expenditures. While we have seen over 500 certificates of occupancy as was stated, residential tax revenue on lower-priced homes is less than the cost of services provided, therefore we will have to make up the difference in the next and coming years.
Our focus must be on economic development especially in the commercial market. This can help growth income to hopefully overtake spending before we stagnate, forcing us to raise taxes to make up the difference.
I’m a big fan of analogies as they help us to grasp both scenarios and concepts in an understandable manner, so let me put it into perspective. NASCAR fans may recall an August 2nd, 2015 headline that read, “Kenseth Wins at Pocono as Kyle Busch Runs Dry”. As with cash reserves, fuel management is just as important as other aspects of the race. Skipping a pit stop may for the time being put you ahead, however, as in the above-mentioned story, Busch ran out of fuel halfway through the last lap. As he slowed to a stop, it opened the door for Kenseth to take the checkered flag.
While this principle is true, it is possible to be too conservative as well, thus slowing down progress. This has been the opposite contention, and finding the right balance is the best approach. This is why I will continue to advocate for a workshop to discuss our reserves and establish a healthy forward-thinking policy so we can all win.”
Editor’s Note: Tomorrow the candidates running for Seat #1 and Seat #2 will share their thoughts on the State of the City Address.