Buoyed by booming property tax revenue from The Villages’ massive Southern Oaks development, Wildwood commissioners Monday night tentatively approved a 2021-22 city budget with a decrease in the property tax rate.
The meeting was the first of two budget hearings. Final approval is expected after a Sept. 27 hearing. The 2021-22 fiscal year begins Oct. 1.
The budget’s tax rate of about $3.25 per $1,000 assessed valuation would be at the rolled-back rate and down from the current rate of $3.40. It would be the fifth year that Wildwood has adopted a tax rate at or below the rolled-back rate. The rolled-back rate is the amount needed to collect the same tax revenue as the previous year excluding new construction.
Total Wildwood property values are expected to reach $3 billion next year, up more than 25 percent or $814,000 from this year.
Despite the tax-rate cut, new construction will allow the city to collect $9.3 million in property taxes next year, up about 30 percent from revenue of $7.1 million this year.
All general fund revenue will be $18.8 million next year and increases are expected in utility services taxes, utility company franchise fees and state shared revenue.
“The cornerstone of the city’s current success is economic development and growth,” City Manager Jason McHugh wrote in an Aug. 30 budget letter to commissioners. “The Villages development remains the main economic driver of our community and will be for the foreseeable future.”
The entire Southern Oaks development, which stretches from State Road 44 more than 20 miles south to the city limits of Center Hill, is in Wildwood. Over the past year, The Villages has built an average of 255 homes a month and that rate is expected to continue.
When Southern Oaks construction is finished, it would nearly double the size of The Villages, adding roughly 50,000 homes.
Besides Southern Oaks, other city hot spots for development include Trailwinds Village and Beaumont along County Road 466A, apartment projects along Powell Road and commercial development in Oxford.
In the budget letter, McHugh wrote that 2021-22 is a transitional year for Wildwood with anticipated completion of a strategic plan and a downtown development plan.
Capital projects include Millennium Park upgrades and completion of the Municipal Services Complex in a former school building. Other projects are street improvements on Pleasantdale Drive, Barwick Street, Jackson Street and Clay Drain Road/Signature Drive. Several water and sewer projects also are planned along with replacement of the city hall heating and air conditioning system.
Four police officers, three public works employees, two utilities workers and a development services staff member will be added.