The Dade City Commission has adopted the city’s tentative budget for next year, and it represents an 8.2% decrease from this year’s budget.
Commissioners had the first reading of the ordinance and first hearing on the proposed $17,710,000 budget in a virtual meeting on Sept. 10. Commissioners gave first-round approval and will have a second reading and final public hearing before the new budget takes effect on Oct. 1.
The 2020-2021 budget represents a decrease of $1,576,935 from this year’s budget.
The proposed budget is based on an approved 7.14 millage rate, accessed on the taxable value of property within the city.
Here’s a breakdown:
- Capital outlay and debt service represents about 44% of the budget, anticipated to total $7,825,733. Major capital projects include construction of the Dade Oaks retention pond; Howard Avenue stormwater improvements; installation of the Tank Hill well, storage tower and booster station; Morningside Drive design, acquisition and construction project; construction of the visitors information center; and other various utility, sidewalk and road improvements projects.
- Personnel costs represent about a third of the budget, totaling $5,807,341 — and an increase of $144,221 from the current budget. That’s a result of funding four new positions, increased health care and workers compensation premiums, 3% cost of living adjustments, years of service increases, reorganization within the police department, increased wages and benefits through the negotiation of the police union contract, and associated retirement.
- Operating costs make up about 23% of the budget, at $4,076,925. Changes include funding for a website revision, conversion from a part-time IT consultant to a full-time IT manager (staff position), projected increases in solid waste collections, and additions to a utility renewal and replacement fund.
The city organized six budget workshops throughout July, August and September to hammer out the fine details, with the help of new interim finance director Andrew Laflin.
Newly elected Commissioner Knute Nathe said he was “very proud” the town was able to pass the budget without having to raise taxes on residents — maintaining a millage rate that’s been in place the past several years.
Washington Heights residents raise community concerns
Several Washington Heights residents weighed in during the public comment period of the virtual meeting — expressing their disappointment with city leadership, asserting their local neighborhood and subdivision has been neglected in funding and resources.
The Washington Heights community is generally bordered by Gaddis Avenue and Whitehouse Avenue, and includes 10th, 11th and 12th streets, among other areas.
More than a handful of residents spoke up, complaining of flooded streets and stormwater deficiencies; poor road and sidewalk conditions; and, a general lack of code enforcement presence to address trash, debris and parking issues of a slew of nearby rental properties.
Harriett Craig, who’s lived on 10th Street since 1979, called out commissioners for appropriating “millions and millions of dollars” toward park improvements and other projects in other parts of the city, but overlooking various infrastructure issues of her local neighborhood.
“The city commissioners are here to serve the entire city, not certain parts of it,” Craig said. “I, as a resident of the City of Dade City, feel like our voices are mute when it comes down to expressing what our needs are in the city,”
She continued her point: “If Howard Avenue can be upgraded so homes won’t be flooded, why can’t 10th Street get the same treatment? I don’t understand it.”
Anita Blake, who lives in Oakview Circle adjacent to Washington Heights, also levied harsh words to commissioners: “We can’t even get the road paved, we can’t get the ditches paved. At some point, it’s like, why are we even paying taxes?”
Eunice Penix, a former longtime commissioner who lives on Wilson Street, also shared her dismay with the community seemingly being brushed aside: “I’m kind of upset. It seems to me we have selective code enforcement. …We shouldn’t have to call the city every time something needs to be done when we have workers all over the city riding and looking; they should look to see what’s wrong with the grounds.”
In response to all that, Dade City Manager Leslie Porter told residents she’ll collaborate with department heads to inspect the area and formulate an action plan in coming weeks.
“We care about all the communities in the city,” said Porter, “and it’s good for us to know when there is a problem, if there’s somewhere where we may be falling short, so I do thank you all for being here and letting us know what your concerns are.”
Dade City Mayor Camille Hernandez assured Washington Heights will be met with a detailed response and action from city staff, saying she is “very, very disturbed” by residents feeling neglected.
“This is embarrassing, and it should not be the case,” Hernandez said. “It’s our town, everyone pays the same taxes and should be treated the same, so we expect a plan.”
In other city business and happenings:
• Dade City Clerk Angelia Guy has been selected to serve on the Florida League of Cities’ legislative policy committee
• A neighborhood community cleanup is scheduled for Sept. 19 at 8 a.m., at Naomi Jones Park, 38122 Martin Luther King Blvd. Volunteers can register at KeepPascoBeautiful.org/coastal-cleanup
• The Mickens Field concession stand/restrooms building is progressing, as the 672-square-foot structure is vertical and bearing a roof. The $89,750 project, at 14318 Canal St., is on track to be complete by the end of October.
Published September 16, 2020