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Olmstead to Apopka City Council: "You cannot afford to be known as the one that allowed this to continue by not annexing South Apopka"


Previous articles have addressed the annexation of South Apopka. The annexation discussion surfaces during campaigns and ebbs in between, yet no one addresses the reasons why the South Apopka designated census area (DCA) has developed as it has. 

Much of it is the fault of the City of Apopka and Orange County. There are many factors I can cover here, but I will leave references for you to read. 

Dr. Phyllis Olmstead
Dr. Phyllis Olmstead

How can anyone not see the imbalance between the haves and have-nots here in Apopka?

The wealthy City of Apopka residents who possess the water versus the low-income impoverished people in the South Apopka CDA who MUST pay the City of Apopka for water.

South Apopka residents earn 55% of what Apopka citizens earn. Three times as many are below the poverty level, and many fewer are high school graduates. Much of this is due to being moved there from family-owned land north of the railway. During the Jim Crow years, Apopka was integrated prior to July 1937, and the State of Florida shut down the Lake Apopka muck farms due to poisoning of the farmworker's fields. (1) (2) Millions of dollars sent to the City of Apopka and Orange County for educating the displaced/undereducated farmworkers were withheld by the jurisdiction, causing a downward spiral into the current conditions. (3)  

City of Apopka


South Apopka CSA


Median Income


11 %

Poverty Level

35 %

89 %

High School Diploma

76 %

90 %


67 %

24 %


61 %

55 %


29 %

30 %


26 %

*Percentages rounded for readability  **Hispanic is an ethnicity including Black, White, Asian claiming one, two or more races, thus totaling over 100 %   ***Source US Federal Census  

According to the August 22nd, 2023 letter sent by Blanche W Sherman, Finance Director, the higher income City of Apopka water holders demand a 25% surcharge from their indigent neighbors of lower income. When you look at the other indicators of community power, you will be even more amazed. 

The letter proposed rate change sheets had the statement “Note: Outside City Customers pay an additional surcharge of 25%” on both sides. The first side has it as a footnote. The second side had it in the middle of the page below Reclaimed Water. It did not have a disclaimer for residential, commercial, water, sewer, contract, bulk, potable or reclaimed.

I asked others who saw the letter their interpretation. They had the same impression of the letter that the note meant ALL Customers. 

I posted the above information on my personal Facebook wall addressing the Council members... Apopka Mayor Bryan Nelson responded,

I responded:

Permitting latitude that there should have been a qualifier before the note or that there should have been boxes around the groups of customers, I felt a reply was needed. Nelson’s statement was declarative. “. . .we do not charge a surcharge,” no qualifiers. The letter says it does, with no qualifiers. 

Nelson has not responded to my comment.

The qualification questions have been asked of the utilities department after receipt of the letter and Nelson’s statement, but no response has been received. A commissioner has been contacted, but s/he has not yet responded with an answer from staff at this time (Saturday evening). It is possible staff took off early for a long holiday. 

If the City of Apopka Proposed Rate Changes letter has been poorly laid out and not formatted well and is redistributed after being properly formatted, I will readily remove my social media post. People need to know what the true water rates are prior to the budget hearing, as required by law. Right now, it looks like all customers outside of the city limits will be charged a 25 % surcharge. If there is a surcharge, the Council and the residents need to be informed, and the mayor needs to retract his statement. 

I had gathered several property tax records and knew that every property had different ad valorem and non-ad valorem charges. Some were even paying taxes to the City already, and some none at all. When the millage increase was first addressed, I asked for an explanation of how it was derived. Sherman said she was working on a brochure explaining the annexation process and millage and suggested I give her an opinion when she was done. The needs of the residents had not been determined. I was told there was no determination of what services the residents of South Apopka were currently receiving from the County or what they were paying! No conversations had been held with the County.

Back to the drawing board. 

Was the County going to keep the stormwater system or sell it to Apopka? Move the lighting system over to Apopka. Keep the trash until the annual contract is over? Was the County going to keep Phillis Wheatley Park and Community Center? What streets were they going to keep?

Tax implications abound. 

On the City website is a page with a map and a link to a spreadsheet on millage rates. https://www.apopka.gov/979/South-Apopka-Annexation When I look at this page and the millage rate chart, it looks like nothing has changed since the beginning. But certainly, there is no easily understandable education on the impact of annexation.

I have suggested a comprehensive annexation education system for people with limited transportation, reading skills, internet access, technology skills, and education levels. A series of unbiased, educational workshops need to be offered immediately, not right before the election.

*Different times of day and days of the week for working people

*Different locations around South Apopka and Apopka for walkers and elderly

*For property owners and renters, renters absorb the taxes

*For all voters of South Apopka CDA and the City of Apopka


*Computers with access to a calculating spreadsheet for their new tax rates 

*Department employees to discuss services offered

*Voter registration for disenfranchised citizens

*Council people to answer questions

Citizens, Council, and City employees of Apopka should travel to South Apopka to meet their neighbors, volunteer in the schools, eat in restaurants, and invest in the community. Then, vote for annexation to compensate for the bigotry and losses they have suffered over the last century. 

This atrocity must be reversed immediately. It must not continue. 

Council, YOUR administration cannot afford to be known as the one that allowed this to continue by not annexing South Apopka CDA in the City of Apopka. 

If there is a surcharge on water, especially expensive reclaimed water, STOP the SURCHARGE. 


  1. Slim, Perrine. (2015). The Pennings of Perrine Slim: Stories of Northwest Orange County Florida
  2. Slongwhite, Dale F. (2014). Fed Up: the high cost of cheap food. 
  3. Garcia, Jason. (5 Oct 2003). Safety Net Fails Farmworkers. Orlando Sentinel. A1, A16, A17

Dr. Phyllis M. Olmstead is an Apopka resident, Historian, Publisher, and Educator.

Dr. Phyllis Olmstead, South Apopka, Apopka Utilities, South Apopka Annexation