Zephyrhills property owners won’t see an increase in their ad valorem tax rate for fiscal year 2020-2021.
The Zephyrhills City Council on July 27 unanimously voted to set the tentative millage rate at 6.35 mills — a rate the municipality has maintained for several years.
Public hearings on the proposed property tax rate have been scheduled for Sept. 14 and Sept. 28.
Under state law, once a tentative millage rate has been set, the city cannot raise it before the start of the fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. The council does, however, have the option to reduce the rate before then.
A mill represents $1 in tax for every $1,000 worth of a property’s taxable assessed value.
In Zephyrhills, maintaining a rate of 6.35 mills would levy about $5.32 million in property taxes — a revenue increase of nearly $380,000 compared with last year.
The figures are based on the total city’s property value of nearly $838 million, an increase of $63.8 million over last year. Of that increase, $28.7 million is attributable to new construction.
The city’s tentative budget is typically set by Aug. 1 each year. However, staff requested to delay the deadline until Aug. 7, because the city is awaiting various revenue estimates from the state.
In other news, council members received an update on the Sarah Vande Berg Foundation’s outreach plans, in the midst of COVID-19.
The Sarah Vande Berg Tennis & Wellness Center, at 6585 Simons Road, won’t open its doors until mid- or late September, but inroads are being made to grow the sport among local youth.
The outreach will be done through the Sarah Vande Berg Foundation, a nonprofit that subsidizes tennis equipment, lessons and afterschool programs to underserved community youth, in partnership with the forthcoming tennis facility.
Nick Walton, the foundation’s program director, explained that the foundation had partnered with West Zephyrhills Elementary School to offer an afterschool tennis program in the spring, but that the program had to be postponed until the fall because of the pandemic.
In addition to partnering with individual schools, including West Zephyrhills Elementary, Walton said the nonprofit also will host a series of free afterschool programs available to all youth in the community during the 2020-2021 school year — regardless of whether students attend brick-and-mortar schools or take virtual classes.
The afterschool program likely will be held around 3:30 p.m. or 4 p.m., on weekdays, Walton said.
“We’ve secured enough funding right now to secure us through the entire school year, so you guys will be seeing me, hopefully trying to raise more, and get into more schools and have more programs running,” Walton told the council.
The nearly $5 million tennis complex features 11 regulation outdoor tennis courts, eight pickleball courts and four padel courts, as well as a state-of-the art indoor health and wellness center, among other amenities.
The facility is a public-private partnership between the City of Zephyrhills and Pascal Collard, a longtime tennis pro and instructor serving as the facility’s CEO.
Virtual meetings set for audio upgrades
In the last several weeks, Zephyrhills city government meetings have mostly returned in-person amid COVID-19, but citizens still have the opportunity to listen and participate through a telephone call-in number.
As staffers and council members have begun conducting semi-virtual meetings at the City Hall council chambers, some audio quality issues have arisen for those who listen in on the phone in real time.
That’s because the chamber room’s communications system wasn’t originally designed to accommodate in-person meetings that could also be broadcasted remotely.
Zephyrhills City Manager Billy Poe said those issues should be sorted out in time for the next scheduled council meeting on Aug. 10, as the city’s IT department is working to retrofit a new computer system that will provide for better sound processing.
“We’ve heard complaints about people being able to only hear every third word or being muffled,” Poe said. “Hopefully, we’ll have something in place, and hopefully it’ll work for the next meeting.”
With that, council president Charles Proctor expressed his appreciation for Mike Panak, the city’s IT director, for helping set up a virtual meeting system on the fly, over the course of the shutdown.
“I’m sure this has been difficult for him to run all of this, and get all this, and I’m sure this has been a nightmare for him, and I really appreciate the fine job done, especially when we were meeting virtually,” Proctor said.
The council president also thanked the city’s entire staff for its dedication and its work to keep the municipality running over the last several months.
“This has been one of the most difficult times in our country’s history, and we have such an amazing group of employees that are so faithful. They show up to work, do an amazing job, even through all this nightmare that we’ve all been living.
“From the guy on the back of the truck to our police and city manager, I’m just so thankful that we have such an amazing team,” Proctor said.
Published August 05, 2020