By Erika Webb
Decreased values may lead to higher taxes for DeLand property owners.
The DeLand City Commission voted unanimously July 15 to establish a proposed property tax rate -- before debt service -- of $7.23 per $1,000 of taxable value for Fiscal Year 2013-14. The current rate is $7.01 per $1,000 of taxable value.
In addition to the proposed operating millage increase, the commission must consider coverage of the general obligation debt service for the DeLand Police Station. To fund the balance of debt payments for Fiscal Year 2013-14, after a $5,010 transfer from police impact fees, the proposed debt service rate is 0.3452.
To a homeowner, with property valued at $100,000 and a $50,000 homestead exemption, the proposed increases would mean a nearly 3 percent jump in property tax from $368.20 to $379.19.
The certification of property tax values released by the Volusia County Property Appraiser July 1 showed a 0.22 percent decrease from last year's final value, calling for a rolled back rate to produce the same amount of revenue currently received. That rate, according to City of DeLand Finance Director Kevin Lewis, is $7.03 per $1,000 of taxable value.
The proposed general operating millage rate is 0.2217 more than the current rate and just over the rolled back rate.
"Through strategic planning sessions and other meetings the commission indicated it was willing to accept a small increase in millage rate," Mr. Lewis said in a phone interview.
The Truth in Millage Act requires cities to advise the property appraiser by Aug. 1 of the proposed millage rate, date, time and place of their budget hearings. The property appraiser is then required to mail a TRIM Notice -- "Notice of Proposed Property Taxes" -- to each property owner.
In DeLand, a public hearing on the tentative millage and budget is scheduled for Sept. 3 at the regular commission meeting. There, a tentative millage rate will be adopted. Final adoption will take place at a second hearing in September.
Adopted rates cannot exceed the amount presented on the TRIM Notice without notification each taxpayer by first class mail at the city's expense, according to documents prepared by Mr. Lewis.
However, he and Mayor Bob Apgar noted, the commission may reduce the tentative rate during the public hearings in September.
In other business commissioners voted unanimously on first reading to amend the city's Comprehensive Plan to incorporate the Multimodal Transportation Plan. Formerly known as the Transportation Mobility Plan, it originally was designed to comply with a state requirement that has since been removed.
DeLand will continue with the approach in order to set up a program for improving the city's transportation infrastructure, looking at alternatives to costly road expansion while addressing the impact of future development.
The amendments to the Future Land Use, Transportation and Capital Improvement Elements are consistent with the 2050 Plan, a guide to assist the city in achieving its sustainability goals.
Bob Wallace, vice president of Tinsdale-Oliver & Associates Inc., the planning and engineering firm contracted by the city to assist in the process, gave a presentation.
During the presentation, he pointed to the city's current traffic patterns and anticipated impact based on future growth.
Stretches of roadway, on State Road 44 and on U.S. 17/92 are considered to have "limited capacity" and, with daily congestion in each area, are approaching a "failed level of service," Mr. Wallace said.
The Institute of Traffic Engineers and Florida Department of Transportation have already assigned the lowest Level -of-Service grade -- F -- to those areas, he said.
"What are we looking at or what are we doing now if we're already in failure now?" Commissioner Leigh Matousek said.
"We believe it's not going to get any worse," Mr. Wallace replied. "In 2010, we did an analysis based on 2009 traffic counts ... Some have gone down over the past couple of years."
Mr. Wallace discussed future plans for multimodal emphasis corridors, which could link the DeLand airport to SunRail and SunRail to Florida Hospital DeLand where a community health overlay district is proposed.
"We need to be mindful of our community and our transportation issues," Commissioner Matousek said in a phone interview.
She said the Multimodal Transportation Plan is designed to promote a continual even flow of traffic to ensure people easily are able to go through town and stop to do business there.
"It's planning how to relieve and manage congestion," she said.
Moving forward with the plan will provide opportunities for federal funding of associated projects, Mr. Wallace explained.
Commissioner Matousek said the multi-faceted endeavor is designed to incorporate trails, sidewalks, public transit circulators and other modes of mobility in addition to possibly persuading future land developers to incorporate turn lanes and widening roads where traffic may be impacted as a result of development.
She noted the addition of several subdivisions along Orange Camp Road during the construction boom created traffic problems in the area.
"(The plan) works in conjunction with county growth management," Commissioner Matousek said. "Do we need to have the developer pitch in to widen the road?"
Creating an outline to predict what can happen will aid in laying the groundwork for encouraging future economic development, she explained.
Overall, the strategic plan focuses on regional high value job creation, new business development, business recruitment and site development, according to the Request for Commission Action.
Ultimately the city will seek approval of the amendments from the Volusia Growth Management Commission and the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.