The Wellington Village Council voted Tuesday, July 9 to set its TRIM (Truth in Millage) rate at 2.48 mills, which would keep the village’s property tax rate unchanged from last year’s adopted budget.
Director of Administrative & Financial Services Tanya Quickel presented the preliminary TRIM rate adoption and recommended keeping the rate the same at 2.48 mills.
“We are proposing no change to the ad valorem millage rate from this year,” she told the council.
The rate is based on an estimated total taxable value of $8.69 billion, up 4.4 percent from last year. This means that at the same rate, Wellington will be taking in some additional revenues. The rollback rate is 2.40 mills — that is the rate Wellington would need to set to keep property tax revenues unchanged.
“The rollback rate is the rate necessary to generate the same amount of revenue as the property valuation included in the prior year, plus revenue on new construction,” Quickel explained.
Due to increasing costs, such as budgetary items tied to the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which measures the rate of inflation, village staff did not recommend using the rollback rate.
According to the preliminary budget overview for fiscal year 2019-20, Florida per capita income growth is a key metric to determine the allowable millage rate increases under TRIM rules. Rates are projected to stabilize or decline in the future, with growth rates between 2.4 to 3.1 percent per year.
The council also set its drainage and solid waste assessments for next year.
“We recommend no change in the Acme Improvement District non-ad-valorem assessments, but that it remains at $230 per unit,” Quickel said. “The solid waste assessments will also see no change.”
Solid waste assessments will stay at $135 per curbside unit and $100 per container unit. The water and wastewater user rates will increase slightly.
The Saddle Trail Park South Improvement District assessment will have a per acre assessment of $1,720.54.
“These are only for those areas that are impacted by that project in the debt,” Quickel explained. “This is the fourth year in that assessment, which is a 15-year term.”
Mayor Anne Gerwig asked if there was a way to have the millage rate decrease.
“I would really like to see us move this millage rate down. I don’t see any reason to not give the residents a tax break,” she explained. “I disagree at how good we are at budgeting. We ended up with $20 million extra. I have a different reaction than Councilman [Michael] Drahos, because wow, we probably overtaxed our residents or did not provide the services that they wanted. I would like to see us, with that cushion in our budget, to get to a 2.45 millage rate this year, which is still higher than rollback. That’s my goal.”
Drahos said that his comments were based on the village’s overall financial position.
“My comments were based on the grade that we received from the auditor, who said we were doing an exemplary job,” he said. “I would like to, of course, cut the millage rate if we are able to, but that’s going to involve taking a close look at this budget, which we are not going to do tonight. But certainly, it is part of our duty to do so. We appreciate the presentation and how thorough it was. This is just step one in a much larger process.”
Councilman John McGovern said that the tax rate should be based on the needs of the village.
“I don’t think we should be articulating a rate change tonight, but I do think as we go forward, there needs to be a real question as to those monies carried forward as to exactly what lines that are out of, so we can see if that money is yet to be spent or if that is money actually saved,” he said. “If it is money that is not going to be spent, then we may need to look at the millage rate. If it’s simply money that we haven’t spent, then that’s a different question.”
Quickel explained that the money in the budget is accounted for in the village’s five-year plan.
“That is where we look at a five-year-long range financial plan we discuss with you each year when we have our budgeting directions workshops,” Quickel said. “We are recommending that stable rate. Our goal is to try to keep five years where we can maintain the 2.48 rate with no drastic changes for our residents. The other factor that plays greatly into this is department evaluation. When you look at the chart, you see it is declining. This is the lowest we have had in the last five years.”
Gerwig continued to press for a rate reduction.
“This is the first time I recall [the millage rate] being lower than the county average,” she said.
Village Manager Paul Schofield said that the county’s finances and the village’s finances are very different.
“When the county has an increase in millage rate, they have a significant amount of undeveloped property that comes on the tax rolls, and it adds to the value,” he said. “We are principally at buildout. We do not have a lot of property to build. So, the days when we were going to add an Olympia, they are gone. We have probably fewer than 1,000 units to build village wide. Given that we are at 95 percent buildout, those parts of construction are not going to be there that we relied on in the past.”
The TRIM rate resolution passed at 2.48 mills by a vote of 3-1 with Gerwig dissenting and Vice Mayor Michael Napoleone absent.
In other business, the council approved an authorization awarding a contract to provide consulting services for the Town Center project. Urban Design Kilday Studios will provide consulting services in the amount of $248,550 to recommend a master plan alternative.
Resident Marion Frank was not happy with the money being paid to consultants for the project.
“I just want to say that the consulting services are going to be costing nearly a quarter of a million dollars to study what has already been studied,” Frank said. “We have had a bunch of meetings, and you have heard from the public. You have heard from people in the Lake Wellington Professional Centre, where I am, that we do not want to have you knock our building down. I still, for the life of me, don’t understand what your motivation is to do this when no one in the community wants it. We come to work every day thinking maybe they are going to tear down our building and where are we going to go.”
At this point, the village is studying master plan options for the area and has not approved a previous proposal that would have eliminated the Lake Wellington Professional Centre.
Kimley-Horn and Associates, meanwhile, will provide engineering and architectural services for the planned Wellington High School Sports Complex in the amount of $505,335. A contract was awarded in the amount of $76,639 to Kaufman Lynn Construction for the construction of the sports complex with a work order for construction management services during the design phase.