A booming residential and commercial construction industry is helping Wildwood keep its property tax rate low in the city’s tentative 2020-21 budget.
Commissioners took the first of two votes Monday night to approve the $48.29 million budget, up 4 percent from last year. Final adoption will be in two weeks.
The property tax rate of $3.398 per $1,000 assessed valuation is the same as last year’s rate and below the rolled-back rate of $3.407. The rolled-back rate is the amount needed to collect the same revenue as the prior year from existing property.
Aggressive home construction, especially in the Villages of Southern Oaks, has boosted Wildwood’s population by 37 percent to 17,354 since last year, according to the latest estimate, up from 12,665. The city’s population has nearly tripled over the past decade.
The budget adds nine positions, including two police officers and a security systems specialist; two employees in both the utility and public works departments; and one employee each in the finance and parks departments.
Capital projects include the $2.25-million renovation of the former North Sumter Primary School, which Wildwood acquired more than a year ago, for the Municipal Services Complex to house utility department administrative offices. The project is funded primarily by loan proceeds from previous years.
Other projects are $3 million in improvements at Millennium Park west of Powell Road, completion of upgrades at Martin Luther King Jr. Park on the west side and decommissioning of the Continental County Club wastewater treatment plant.
Water and sewer rates are expected to rise by 2.9 percent next year.
In a written presentation to commissioners, City Manager Jason McHugh said the budget will advance the goals of the city’s strategic plan.
“The resources contained within the budget will allow the city to sustain quality services to the Wildwood community, while staging it in a position to respond to emergency situations without jeopardizing the financial viability of the city as a whole,” he wrote.
Besides the capital projects, the strategic plan also calls for preparing a downtown master plan, installing bathrooms at the Baker House and Lake Deaton Park, buying five generators for emergencies and increasing the capacity for on-site fuel storage. It also calls for organizing 20 new parks and recreation programs for a variety of age groups.