With the proposed budget presented at a Aug. 20 workshop, New Smyrna Beach residents can expect about a 4% tax increase over the rollback rate.
The 2020 fiscal year budget will continue improvements the city is making in all areas of technology. New software will enable people to better access building permit and development-related information. New agenda management software is being installed to allow people to listen to the part of a meeting that is of interest to them by clicking on the agenda item.
“There are really exciting uses of technology coming in almost every department,” Mayor Russ Owen said. “We are catching up on things people don’t see. Technology upgrades are necessary. Once they’re in place, people will really see the benefit.”
There were only a few issues raised by members of the council that may mean changes to the proposed budget between now and the first public hearing.
Mayor Owen questioned whether the city may want to look at approaching economic development differently.
“So, the thing that sticks out to me on business and economic development -- and I don’t have answers, which I usually don’t like to present issues without answers. I think some would argue that we’re coming up a little short,” he said. “We keep talking about these things we’re trying to attract and yet I don’t know if we’re landing any of those home runs. So then on the goals I see ‘continue, continue, continue’ and I guess I’m wondering if there’s anything we should be discontinuing and starting something new. Trying something different. Again, I don’t know what that may be, so I’m just kind of throwing it out there. What haven’t we thought of and what are other places doing. I think right now we are relying on businesses to find us via our website or maybe Team Volusia. What might we need to do to get some bigger wins?”
The mayor said he saw some positives. “Where I think we are doing a good job is with the home-grown businesses. People who are already here and who are looking to expand. We are working to make sure that is as easy a process as possible,” he said.
Commissioner Michael Kolody raised the issue of Washington Street, which was not included in next year’s budget. He said he considered that critical to accomplish before too much longer. City staff said it wasn’t included because it comes with a $3 million price tag.
Commissioner Kolody asked if the city could use impact fees on the road. Staff agreed those funds could be used and said there was $2.2 million in the road impact fee account.
By consensus, the commission directed staff to include the design phase in next year’s budget.
Staff also said they needed direction on whether to add the pump-out boat and a police boat. The pump-out boat is estimated to cost $176,000, but it would not impact the general fund. A state grant would cover 75 percent of the cost with the balance coming from marina funds.
The police boat is estimated to cost $80,000. City commissioners said before they could make a decision on that, they needed more information. Staff was asked to find out if the boat could be purchased with impact fees. Commissioners also wanted to know how often the boat would be staffed and what specific functions the marine officer would perform?
Commissioner Jason McGuirk said he was happy with the changes made and cautioned the commission not to cut too much.
“We started this budget process at about a 6 or 7 % increase over last year. We’ve brought that down now to 4%,” he said. “The community wants certain things. My feeling is that we shouldn’t add new infrastructure unless the budget has enough money to at least maintain the things we already have.”
Mayor Owen wrapped up the meeting with his sentiments. “I was uncomfortable with a 7% increase. We can say with the 4% over rollback, that they are paying less than they did last year, but getting more services. And that’s due to new growth. Growth is paying for itself.”
The first public hearing for the FY 2020 budget is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 11.