By FRANK TORRES - Anyone who has been following the Orlando Mayor race can identify the one number that up to this point has defined the race. 17.7%.
It’s the percentage which the Orlando City Council raised property taxes last year to cover a budget shortfall. Mayor Buddy Dyer mentioned the increase could be a possibility in his 2014 and his opponent, Businessman and Veteran Paul Paulson, along with challengers opposing the other two Orlando Commissioners up for reelection, District 4’s Patty Sheehan, and District 6’s Sam Ings have also made it their main avenue of attack.
“Now, in the simplest way possible. In a way anybody can understand.” I say “Can you set the record straight and explain this increase”
“I can very much do that” Dyer replies.
“Property tax relates to general revenue. It’s what funds police, fire, parks and recreation. Not economic development things. It’s a pot of money that is roughly this year about $300 million dollars and consist of property tax revenues, dividends on OUC, and a couple of miscellaneous things. In 2007, the city generated $137 million dollars in property tax revenue. By 2013 it was under $100. During that time frame however everything we spend on is going up”
The Mayor pulls out a notebook and continues with six numbers 2009= 137 million. 2013= 99 million. 2014= 128 million.
“When we raised it. We didn’t even go back to the 2009 amount” he says “Since I’ve taken office. I have cut, cut, cut, cut. The police and fire budget is up 90 million. Every single other department is down 18 million. We’re down 350 employees in non-public safety and up 175 in public safety. We made the decision that we were not going to raise taxes until we were out of the recession. We’re only going to do this one time and asked ‘what’s reasonable?’ and ‘we weren’t going to cut fire and police.'”
Paulson says he’ll rollback that 17.7%. Dyer says that’s not possible.
“We would have had to eliminate the entire Parks and Recs Department. In it’s entirety. Community Centers, Parks, Kids Programs, Employees it’s all eliminated.”
“As far as the number 17.7% it sounds like a lot as to what it costs a family, it’s not that much. What in your household doesn’t cost too much more than it did in 2009?” he continues “It was important to us maintain financial stability. Our bond ratings are highest in the state. We’ve got fully funded pension funds. Businesses know we’re a stable city.” He says in closing
“I think I got it” I say. “In this job, you’re in a position where you have to work with leaders from around the community. With Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs….”