110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Al Everson
posted Jul 19, 2012 - 7:53:19am
Feeling the heat from a crowd of upset residents, the Deltona City Commission set a tentative 2012-13 property-tax rate that is lower than this year’s.
Unless the commission reduces the levy further, however, Deltona will still have the highest ad valorem tax rate among the cities of Volusia County.
Because the value of properties in Deltona has been declining, the tax rate has been rising to bring in an equivalent amount of money for city operations. Though some property owners will pay more, not all will.
“Most people in Deltona have had their taxes reduced,” Commissioner Heidi Herzberg told the skeptical audience July 16.
The levy proposed for next year is 7.99 mills, or $7.99 per $1,000 of taxable property value. That figure is below the 8.3 mills now in effect.
The proposed levy is also below the rollback rate, 8.36 mills, as calculated by the Volusia County Property Appraiser’s Office.
“Have some compassion for us seniors,” Vicki Wailes appealed to the commission.
Commissioner Herb Zischkau urged his colleagues to consider lowering the tax rate, while dipping into the city’s $14 million in reserve funds to cover some of the next budget.
Zischkau even suggested setting the city’s ad valorem levy at 6 mills to help taxpayers who are “getting soaked by the Deltona government.”
“We have overtaxed the people of Deltona,” he said. “Take the load off the backs of our current employers and potential employers.”
If the commission finds itself short of cash, its members found they have no shortage of critics.
“What we’re doing is setting the top one. There’s still public hearings,” Mayor John Masiarczyk said.
Masiarczyk and other commissioners expressed surprise at the turnout, wondering why critics of the budget had not attended other meetings, notably the City Commission’s July 6 workshop on Deltona’s 2012-13 budget.
The City Commission’s action on a proposed tax rate and a higher rate for trash and garbage collection drew a crowd that at times bordered on demanding and even raucous.
One woman who identified herself only as “Carol” addressed the City Commission. Her remarks and questions got answers that did not satisfy her. When Masiar-czyk told her to return to her seat, she challenged him.
“You’re notorious for shutting people down and not giving us answers,” she said, as a deputy sheriff began to move closer to her.
Herzberg failed to assuage the resentment when she said Deltona’s new higher assessment for trash pickup will be “the lowest rate in the county.”
The trash-collection assessment will rise from $132 to $174.
“How are people going to afford it?” asked Ronald Hawley. “How am I supposed to come up with this kind of money?”
The hike in the yearly fee for trash pickup got as much attention as the tax rate, especially as critics recalled that the commission awarded the contract to Waste Pro without soliciting competing bids from other haulers.
Herzberg’s call for a tax rate closer to the one currently in effect evoked some catcalls.
“The City of Deltona could face bankruptcy,” she said.
She mentioned that San Bernardino, Calif., is on the verge of municipal bankruptcy.
If Deltona became insolvent, Herzberg warned, the relatively new city would go back in time.
“The result would be to turn the City of Deltona over to the County of Volusia,” she said.
“That’s a good idea,” was one reaction in the audience.
As for tapping the city’s cash cushion for the coming fiscal year, Herzberg cautioned against the idea, because of possible unforeseen problems or disasters such as hurricanes.
“When you dip into your savings account, that makes me very nervous,” she said.
Zischkau said an economic storm of sorts is here now, and that justifies the use of the reserves and reducing the property-tax levy to 6 mills.
“Ladies and gentlemen, this is the rainy day,” he said.
By a 4-3 vote, the City Commission approved a tentative levy of 7.99 mills. Vice Mayor Paul Treusch and Commissioners Herz-berg and Zischkau dissented, while Masiar-czyk and Commissioners Michael Carmolingo, Zenaida Denizac and Fred Lowry were on the prevailing side.
The assessments for trash collection, stormwater control and streetlighting districts were also approved.
The special assessments appear on the preliminary tax notices and the actual tax bills, and the assessments are due and payable with the property taxes.
Final action on the city’s new budget and the property tax will come in September. The new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.
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