Wildwood Commission gives final blessing to healthy $56.9 million budget

Wildwood commissioners approved a $56.9 million budget Monday night for the 2019-2020 fiscal year that cuts property taxes.

The tax rate of $3.398 per $1,000 of assessed valuation is down from this year’s rate of $3.658 and at the rolled-back rate, which is the amount needed to collect the same revenue as the prior year not including new construction.

The owner of a home assessed at $200,000 after homestead credits would pay about $680 in city taxes, down from about $740 this year. The fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

New construction in the Villages of Southern Oaks and other projects will boost Wildwood’s property tax revenue by 71 percent, despite the rate reduction. The city expects to collect $5.3 million in property tax revenue next year, up from $3.1 million this year.

The city also receives revenue from local options taxes, including the gas tax, as well as franchise fees from utility providers, utility service fees and the law enforcement impact fee.

Wildwood’s tax-rate cut is in contrast to Sumter County’s proposed 25 percent increase, which county commissioners will vote on Tuesday after a 6 p.m. public hearing at the Savannah Center.

Both are driven by development of the Villages of Southern Oaks, but the responsibilities are different. The county is working to build a network of regional roads, including a $19.3 million extension of Buena Vista Boulevard that must be completed before homes are sold in those areas. Wildwood won’t be building roads but provides utility services either directly or through other entities.

Reducing debt will be a focus of next year’s Wildwood budget, which calls for paying off $1.3 million of the $11.1-million utility fund debt and $1.9 million of the $9 million general fund debt. It also would pay $1.2 million on a $6.5-million Citizens First Bank loan.

The budget cuts seven full-time police department positions, including deputy chief and a lieutenant. Some positions also will be eliminated due to the transfer of emergency dispatching to the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office. Positions will be added in public works, parks and recreation and development services.

A 2 percent cost-of-living raise will be given to all employees except the city manager, and health care costs are expected to rise by up to 8 percent.

Completion of the $7 million police station on the southwest corner of U.S. 301 and County Road 462 West is the largest capital project. Others are improvements at Lake Deaton, Millennium Park upgrades and a city hall annex.

At Monday’s meeting, Wildwood commissioners also approved several amendments and agreements that divides the Villages of Southern Oaks into two sectors for purposes of government oversight and allows permanent food trucks in newer areas.

The new agreements will permit 40,300 residential units, 4.3 million square feet of commercial/office space and 142,000 square feet of office/government space.

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