By Jeff Weiner - Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer told city commissioners in his annual budget address Monday that several years of cuts and last year's property-tax increase paid off in the form of a balanced budget for 2016.
"Let me be clear, this has not been easy," Dyer said. "We tightened our belt to the very last notch. We learned to do more with less.... We found new and efficient ways to invest in our city."
The city's finance department has proposed a $1.12 billion budget for 2016, with matching revenues. That figure includes a nearly 8-percent increase for the city's general fund, to about $401 million.
Dyer highlighted several programs and expenditures planned for 2016, including:
- An investment of $50 million into the city's infrastructure, including resurfaced roadways and improved stormwater drainage;
- Funding to expedite the deployment of body-worn cameras for the city's police force;
- $4 million for homeless initiatives, including Housing First, the city's recently adopted model for providing housing to the chronically homeless.
- Making Orlando's permitting, planning and code-enforcement systems accessible online through the city's website.
Last year, facing a widening budget gap, the City Council voted to raise the tax rate by $1, to $6.65 per $1,000 of taxable property value. The 17.7-percent hike was the first rate increase in Orlando since 2008.
This year, thanks in large part to the improved economic climate and cuts in prior budgets, no increase is needed to balance the books, Orlando's Deputy Chief Financial Officer Brian Battles told commissioners Monday.
"The majority of our revenues are trending in the right... positive direction," he said.