Wellington Council Hears Presentation On $128.5 Million Proposed Budget

The Wellington Village Council.

The Wellington Village Council set its preliminary tax and assessment rates on Tuesday, July 12 after hearing an overview of the village’s proposed $128.5 million budget for fiscal year 2022-23.

The preliminary tax rate of 2.47 mills is unchanged from last year. Known as the TRIM (truth in millage) rate, it can go down as the budget process continues but cannot be raised. The Acme Improvement District’s drainage assessment is also unchanged at $230 per unit.

However, the annual fees for solid waste collection, which got its preliminary approval last month, is up $49 for the year based on the village’s new solid waste vendor contract, while the average water bill is projected to go up about $2.42 per month.

The village also approved the annual Saddle Trail Improvement assessment, which is unchanged in year 7 of that 15-year neighborhood project.

All the TRIM items were approved unanimously.

Deputy Village Manager Tanya Quickel, joined remotely by Budget Director Christine Wadleigh, presented the preliminary budget for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1.

“In looking at the total proposed budget, Wellington continues its commitment to stable budgeting for sustainability,” Quickel said.

The total proposed budget is $128.5 million, which is $5.5 million less than the current year’s budget of $134 million, due primarily to less money planned for capital improvement projects.

“However, we are still budgeting almost $24 million in new capital project funds while maintaining the same millage and Acme assessment rates,” Quickel said.

Property taxes will provide an estimated $24 million in revenue. Due to a 12.7 percent increase in the village’s taxable value, that is $2.6 million more next year than in the current year.

“This is the 10th consecutive year of increased property values,” Quickel noted, adding that there is also a significant increase in permits and fees, which is driven by increases in the building department. “The economy remains a major factor in the preparation of this year’s budget given the influences from inflation, supply chain issues, labor hiring and retention challenges, and affordable housing and rising rents.”

The decreases in capital projects are offset by increases in maintenance expenses and personnel costs.

“Our recommendation is to remain at the stable millage rate of 2.47 mills,” Quickel told the council. “Homeowners may still see an increase in their tax bill if their property values have increased.”

For homesteaded properties, which are capped at a 3 percent increase, the average Wellington property tax will go up $33. The increase for non-homesteaded property averages $111.

Quickel said that the proposed budget continues Wellington’s standard of providing high service levels while also maintaining infrastructure.

The preliminary budget funds 244 full-time governmental positions, 90,669 part-time hours, four supplemental positions and two interns. In the enterprise funds, the budget funds 66 full-time positions, nine supplemental positions and one intern.

“This is the start of the process, not the end of it,” Councilman John McGovern said. “We are setting the ceiling, not the floor.”

He noted that it was the fourth year in a row that the tax rate will be 2.47 mills. “That rate was agreed to by the council as a five-year flat number,” McGovern explained.

Mayor Anne Gerwig said that she was pleased with the budget given the challenging economy.

“There is uncertainty in a lot of these numbers now,” she said. “Normally I try to get this number down a bit, but I think the uncertainly out there is something that we are all realizing.”

Quickel agreed, noting that price increases from village contracts are coming before the council on a regular basis.

“With the continued inflation, it is a challenging environment,” she said.

Councilwoman Tanya Siskind called the proposed spending plan “a very good, solid budget, especially in light of the cost of everything going up.”

Councilman Michael Napoleone added that unnecessary cost-cutting could harm Wellington’s quality of life.

“For most people, it’s not going to move the needle much, but it will keep the level of service in the village what we all expect it to be,” he said of the preliminary budget. “Of your total tax bill, Wellington and Acme are only 16 percent. It’s a very small sliver.”

Vice Mayor Michael Drahos congratulated his fellow council members on implementing and sticking to a stable budgeting policy.

“Tonight’s vote of 2.47 mills is the manifestation of long-term conservative fiscal management,” he said. “We told the residents that we would hold at 2.47 mills, and we have been true to our word. Because of that, we are in a very strong position.”

Wellington’s budget workshop on Monday, Aug. 8 will include a deeper focus on capital projects. However, at the meeting, Quickel broke capital projects up into one-time projects, ongoing infrastructure replacement and utility projects.

One-time projects include: Public Safety Annex, $3 million; Wellington Community Center Improvements, $100,000; Greenview Shores Bike Lanes (grant match), $250,000; Section 24 Preserve (grant match), $500,000; Olympia Park Courts, $600,000; Community Park Renovations, $1.5 million; and Aquatics Complex Replacement, $3.4 million.

Ongoing infrastructure replacements include: Acme R&R Fund, $795,000; Neighborhood Parks, $320,000; Neighborhood Pipe Lining, $510,000; Park Improvements, $325,000; Technology Investment, $300,000; Multiuse Pathways, $380,000; Traffic Engineering, $75,000; Athletic Fields, $1.2 million; Streetscapes, $510,000; and Turn Lanes, $120,000.

Utilities projects include: Communications & Tech Investment, $60,000; Water Supply Improvements, $500,000; Water Treatment System, $4 million; Water Repump & Storage, $200,000; Force Main Wastewater System, $1 million; Water Reclamation Facility, $3.55 million; and Reuse System Improvements, $350,000.

As the budget process continues, Wellington invites all its residents to take part in the Fiscal Year 2022-23 Budget Challenge, which is available through Aug. 15.

The budget challenge helps Wellington set its funding priorities for the next fiscal year and helps staff create a balanced budget that reflects the needs of the community.

The survey allows residents to make decisions about how much support certain services should receive, such as law enforcement, roadway enhancements, recreational/cultural facilities, parks programming, customer service and more.

Take the budget challenge by visiting www.wellingtonfl.gov/budgetchallenge.

Additional preliminary budget approvals will be made at the Aug. 9 council meeting, followed by two budget public hearings on Sept. 6 and Sept. 21 before the budget is finalized.