2015/2016 Budget Address
One of the privileges of serving as Mayor of our great City is the opportunity to outline our balanced budget for the upcoming year. Our budget prioritizes the expenditure of city revenues. It also allows our residents to understand where their tax dollars go – and why the programs and services we invest in are essential to meeting the needs of our residents and business owners.
Over the last several years we successfully managed uncharted territory due to the global economic crisis and the impact of state-mandated property tax caps. This forced many other city governments to declare financial emergencies. But here in Orlando we made our government more efficient not with quick fixes, but by making the tough decisions to cut non-essential services to ensure our long-term financial stability.
And let me be clear…this has not been easy. We tightened our belt to the very last notch. We learned to do more with less. We stretched vehicle maintenance and replacement as far as it could go. We reduced our staff. We delayed some infrastructure projects. We found new and efficient ways to invest in our City.
All of these actions have helped ensure the long-term financial health of Orlando.
This fiscal responsibility is demonstrated in our credit ratings and our reserves. And even though we already enjoy the highest municipal ratings in the state, this year S&P further improved our credit rating.
What the rating agencies have to say about our budget and our financial management is even more impressive.
“The City has balanced its budget in fiscal 2015, with reserves still at healthy levels and the expectation of structurally balanced operations maintained in the coming years”
S&P shared in their report:
“While the City has cut its budget meaningfully, it has not cut core services to the extent that other Florida cities have.”
These ratings speak to our strong financial management and validate that we have been good stewards of our taxpayers’ money.
What’s more important is that our residents continue to receive the highest quality City services anywhere.
Everyday our residents are served by:
- A police department that has helped reduce overall crime for six of the last seven years
- A top rated Fire Department whose cardiac survival rate is three times the national average
- A public works department that repairs 90 percent of potholes within 24 hours of being reported
- A solid waste division that handles half a million garbage and recycling pickups each week…of which 99.98 percent are on time
- A wastewater division that converts 15 billion gallons of wastewater each year into crystal clear reclaimed water…that’s enough to fill Lake Eola 145 times…and The Wastewater Collection System of the Year as recognized by the Florida Wastewater Environment Association.
- A Fleet Division that was named one of the top 20 green fleets in the United States
- A City Planning Division whose plans have won awards of excellence from the Florida Chapter of the American Planning Association
- A Families, Parks and Recreation Department that maintains more than 4,500 acres of beautiful parks for our residents to enjoy and is caring for 5,000 children every day
- And…a Facilities Division that has saved more than one million dollars through energy retrofits already and once our second phase is complete will save us over two million dollars a year. And oh by the way these savings are helping us to pay for half of the new OPD headquarters.
Our residents can be proud that they receive this high level of service for an average tax bill of 62-dollars-a-month… that’s far less than the cost of what most people pay for cell phone service.
This year we are proposing to maintain our current millage rate while continuing our five-star services and to invest in Orlando. We’re also saving our residents an average $33 a year per household by foregoing the automatic increases in our wastewater and solid waste fees.
Invest in Orlando
As the economy recovers and our revenues get back to pre-recession levels, this year’s budget includes funding for more than 100 projects focused on ensuring that Orlando remains a great place to live, work and raise a family.
Some of these investments won’t grab headlines, but they impact the lives of our residents each and every day. We’re investing more than 50 million dollars in our City’s infrastructure including resurfacing roadways so that residents can travel safely, improving stormwater drains and sewers in neighborhoods so that our streets won’t flood. A lot of these improvements might be not visible to residents, but they are critically important and are essential to maintain the level of services that Orlando is known for.
Residents want to be assured that
- when they get to a traffic light it operates properly
- when it rains the streets will drain,
- when they flush their toilet…well…it goes in the right direction
It’s our obligation to maintain the infrastructure components that we depend on daily. They need to work properly not just today but for the future residents of Orlando.
The stormwater improvements go beyond just preventing flooding but also keep our lakes and urban wetlands clean. To help accomplish that goal, we’ll be funding a study to determine the best way to can enhance and improve the LaCosta Wetlands and making improvements to increase the water quality in Rock Lake.
Keep our Community Safe
Other investments will continue to make our City a safe place to live. In this budget we are funding investments in new equipment and technology for our police officers and firefighters; including funding the purchase of body cameras for our OPD patrol officers, which will help expedite their deployment. The hard work of our police department is making a difference in our community. Overall crime City-wide is down 20% since 2007 and our Fire Department has a Class 1 ISO Rating and International Accreditation – making it one of only 15 departments in the nation to have both. Keeping our City safe remains our top priority.
We’re also continuing our commitment to help our homelessness residents. This budget supports our community service agencies that have been serving the homeless in our community. Building on these efforts our region has renewed our commitment to serve the homeless using a new national model for housing the chronic homeless called Housing First. To further support all of these homeless initiatives this budget dedicates $4 million toward this community effort.
Provide Mobility and Transportation Options
Phase 1 of SunRail has proved to be a backbone for public transportation and as we look to enhance and expand our transportation options to make it easier to get around, this budget starts to set aside money toward an expansion to connect SunRail to the airport. Beyond public transportation it’s also important that pedestrians, especially children walking to school, can safely get around our community. We’re investing half-a-million dollars in this budget to focus on upgrading our sidewalks near schools to make walking to school safer. That is in addition to our 2 million dollar Orlando Walks initiative.
Create a City for Everyone
Many of these investments are things you will see directly in our neighborhoods. We’re investing $2 million to provide better amenities and enhance our parks, playgrounds and community centers with projects such as renovating the playground at Matthew’s Park, an overhaul of some of the indoor and outdoor recreation equipment at the Smith Center and enhancements to our City’s heavily used skate park. Projects like these make Orlando an even better place to raise a family and call home. It’s important that Orlando remains a City for everyone and our parks and community centers help us to do just that.
As our City grows we must invest in making sure our residents and business owners can continue to have a great experience interacting with City government. To help do this we are investing in building out our digital City Hall by bringing our Permitting, Planning and Code Enforcement systems online. The first portion of this will be online permitting for small businesses which will roll out later this year.
To ensure that we continue to provide the best customer service, we’ve created a new position focusing on on engaging and responding to our resident’s concerns.
Commissioners, the budget proposal in front of you today also continues to invest in the essential programs and services that are necessary for people to go about their lives; stormwater, wastewater, garbage, trash and recycling pick-up and other health and safety functions. This budget invests in proven programs that link our most vulnerable young people with education and opportunity through our youth programs that serve more than 5 thousand youth every day. Our budget continues to support the private sector in creating high-quality jobs and diversifying our Central Florida economy with programs such as our Main Street Districts that provide a path for entrepreneurship, small business success and stronger neighborhoods. Since the program’s start, our investments in Main Street Districts have resulted in 600 new businesses and the creation of more than 4,000 full and part-time jobs.
I want to say thank you to each City Commissioner. It is your hard work and leadership that is ensuring that we are a fiscally responsible city.
As I look back on my time as Mayor, one of the things I am most proud of is the change in our culture of spending. Government at every level is often criticized for fostering a dynamic where employees feel they are compelled to spend every dollar of their department’s budget for fear of having their budgets reduced in the next year. Not here in Orlando. Our department directors work hard and take pride in coming in under budget and returning funds to reserves.
I want to thank our CFO Rebecca Sutton, CAO Byron Brooks, every City Department Director and Division Manager and our employees for their commitment to high quality services and fiscal responsibility.
I also, want to thank the residents of Orlando. I know our residents are proud of how our City has weathered our nation’s economic challenges. I know we are also proud that Orlando is one of the most financially stable city governments in the state. I hear every day how proud our residents are to live in Orlando. Together we are committed to continuing to invest in our City to ensure that we remain the best City in the country to live, work and raise a family.