Maitland Mayor Doug Kinson knows the worst is yet to come in terms of the city's budget.
The city is largely dependent on its commercial property values, as Maitland Center, the six million-square-foot office park in the city's borders, provides for about 70 percent of the ad valorem taxes flowing into city hall.
Maitland Center is now 20 percent vacant, and the property appraiser could lower the center's property values, meaning less tax revenue for the city.
"This budget year is going to be one of most challenging we've had in our history," Kinson said during his state of the city address at the Maitland Area Chamber of Commerce's 54th Annual Awards Banquet on Jan. 28.
He said the city will be focused on bringing businesses and jobs to Maitland Center, and cited the city's achievement in 2009 of negotiating to keep the Metavante Corp. headquarters in Maitland Summit Park after the company expressed interest in moving elsewhere.
It's important to move projects ahead, he said, as they won't go on the tax roll until a year later.
Two years ago three projects were a go — Residences at Ravinia, Trevi and the Village at Lake Lily — and only one made it, and that was only after Council made a concession to allow them to all be marketed as apartments, instead of half condominiums and half apartments.
"I am so thankful that one of those projects is not only standing today but is getting leased up," he said.
The city also saw the grand opening of the Edward Doyle Police Headquarters in 2009, and hopes to break ground on a new fire station by the middle of 2010 and a new city hall by the end of it. They're currently soliciting bids from developers.
As far as the planned four-block mixed-use Maitland Town Center, the picture has changed a little bit, Kinson said. Developer Bob Reese's attempts to fund the $200 million project have been unsuccessful.
"It's been a real struggle to find financing for that project," Kinson said. "It's still in play but it's not the same as what it was. The future is uncertain."
The major change is the city's public projects — the fire station and city hall — were originally a part of the development agreement, to be built by Reese. The city voted to take those pieces out of the agreement last year and build them with its own money on city land.
The city will decide at the end of this year whether to keep Reese's development agreement intact, or to cut ties with him. He owns or has under contract some of the land that would make up the future new downtown, the four blocks north of Lake Lily.
Now, Kinson said, is the key time to plan for what the city will look like in the future. He said he is wary of Hometown Democracy, state legislation that would require changes in comprehensive plan land use to go in front of voters.
"My concern is, how many times would we hold votes?" he said.
Looking ahead, he said the city will be focusing on completing the public facilities, proper planning for the community, connectivity through bike and pedestrian pathways, both east and west of Interstate 4, and building a park on the west side of the city.
"Overall, the key to Maitland's success is the involvement of our citizens and residents at every level."
Cheers to you!
The Maitland Area Chamber of Commerce hosted its 54th Annual Awards Banquet to honor volunteers for 2009. Patricia "Pat" Williamson won the President's Award. Pamela "Pam" Costa won the Executive Director's Award.