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The Villages
Saturday, December 9, 2023

Wildwood’s booming population fuels need for new wastewater treatment plant

Wildwood commissioners tentatively approved a $258.5-million budget for 2023-24 Monday night, which includes the cost of a new wastewater treatment plant and upgrades to the current plant.

Final budget adoption is expected Sept. 25 after another public hearing. The next fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

The property tax rate will be about $2.83 per $1,000 assessed valuation, a 5.7 percent decrease from last year’s rate of $3. The tax rate will be at the rolled-back rate, which is the amount needed to collect the same revenue as the prior year excluding new construction.

Wildwood is expected to collect $17.8 million in property taxes next year, up $3.5 million from this year due to growth. 

Waste water treatment plant costs boosted expenditures 330 percent over this year’s $60.1-million budget and 180 percent higher than a July expenditure estimate of $89.5 million.

The need for more wastewater treatment capacity is the result of Wildwood’s exploding growth.

Fueled by home building in the Villages of Southern Oaks and apartment construction, the city’s population has nearly doubled since the 2020 census to 30,327, up from 15,730 three years ago, according to a University of Florida estimate. 

A recent construction estimate for a new treatment plant with a capacity of 6 million gallons daily is $198 million. The city also is upgrading the existing plant to handle a higher flow rate until the new plant is completed on adjacent city-owned property.

Most of the construction cost would be financed through revenue bonds, although grants could be available.

Commissioners also approved a resolution allowing city staff to negotiate with a bond counsel firm for issuance of  bonds, which would be repaid through city revenue usually over a 20- or 30-year term.

A 25 percent hike in wastewater fees also is expected to cover a portion of the cost.

The budget includes $31.2 million in operating expenses plus other capital projects such as Millennium Park improvements and a downtown parking garage.

Besides property taxes, Wildwood is expected to receive $4.6 million in franchise fees from water, gas and refuse providers, $3.3 million in utility services fees, and $3 million in state revenue sharing.


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