Communication Builds Our Community

City Moving Forward with $55 Million Budget

Final Hearing Set for Sept. 24

Lake Wales City Commissioners will hold their second and final public hearing Sept. 24 to adopt a $55 million budget for 2019-20, with a slightly lower property tax rate.

Commissioners approved the budget at their first hearing Sept.10, with a millage rate of 6.9339, or approximately $6.93 for every $1,000 of taxable property value. This is considered the "rollback rate" that based upon anticipated growth can be expected to generate the same amount of tax revenue as this year. The 2018-19 rate is 7.0438, or about $7.04 per $1,000 of taxable property value. The reduction means a person with a home valued at $100,000 with a $50,000 homestead exemption would see a tax break of about $6.49.

Since the commission's Aug. 13 budget workshop, city staff made cuts to their proposed spending and pushed some capital projects to the 2020-21 year, addressing commission concerns that the estimated $5 million reserve was inadequate. The proposed budget now calls for a 2 percent across the board cost of living salary adjustment for all employees.

The proposed budget includes just under $16 million in capital improvements for 2019-20 and a total of $66.7 million for the next five years. Included for the coming year is $936,000 for purchase and renovation of the Lake Wales Family YMCA, which would be financed over a 15-year period.

Commissioner Curtis Gibson asked his colleagues to consider holding off on construction of the Crystal Lake walking trail, suggesting downtown redevelopment might be a higher priority for the estimated $454,000 in Community Redevelopment Agency funds. The city has been awarded a $200,000 state matching grant for the trail, but details are still being worked out. Commissioners agreed to hold off on construction but to allow city officials to go forward with spending approximately $65,000 for engineering and project design.

Deputy Mayor Robin Gibson reminded the commissioners that he plans to continue being "obnoxious" in protecting CRA Trust Funds to ensure they are properly spent on redevelopment, not maintenance of operations.

The final budget hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 24 at the city administration building, 201 W. Central Ave.


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