Maitland votes to raise taxes, Winter Park keeps rate steady

Sarah Wilson

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Maitland City Council members were dreaming big Monday night as they placed a preliminary vote to raise the city’s property tax rate just over one mil to 4.9 mills – $4.90 per $1,000 of taxable property value – up from 3.88 mils where the rate has been since 2007.

The increase would cost a Maitland resident owning a home worth $350,000 with homestead exemption approximately $306 more on their annual tax bill next year.

Meanwhile, the Winter Park City Commission voted Monday, July 28, to keep tax rates steady at 4.0923 mills where its been for the past five years.

Maitland Councilwoman Bev Reponen, who proposed the city’s rate raise which passed unanimously, said that it’s time for the city to start asking for the money it really needs to keep up quality services.

“This is not the time to run on a shoestring,” Reponen said. “We have so much we want to do over the next couple of years … we need to build our nest egg.”

She said now it’s up to residents to come back and voice their opinions to the city on what they’d rather have: more money for the city to invest into services, or lower taxes.

“I just don’t think it’s realistic if we want to have a quality city (to keep the tax rate the same),” she said. “And I want a quality city.”

Mayor Howard Schieferdecker agreed that the city should take this time to dream of what it could do with increased tax revenue, present the big picture to residents, and then see what they have to say.

“We should be dreaming big here and then coming back to this when the residents come back to us,” he said.

Raising the millage rate to 4.9 mills would bring in an estimated $2 million in additional revenue for Maitland, which could allow the city to draft a budget where no money has to be drawn out from reserves – as has been done in recent years during the recession – and more city staff positions can be unfrozen.

Of the handful of residents in attendance who spoke up regarding the proposed tax increase, all said they were in favor of the city taking more money to keep up quality-of-life services in Maitland.

“Dream big,” resident and Planning and Zoning Commission member Michael Dabby told the Council. “…Put everything you could possibly need in there, and then whittle it down.”

The next public hearing regarding the tax rate in Maitland will be Sept. 8 during the Council’s regularly scheduled meeting. At that meeting, the Council can decide to lower the advertised 4.9 mills tax rate or keep it as is, but Assistant City Manager Sharon Anselmo said, they can’t raise it any higher. The Council will host its next budget workshop, which is open to the public, on Monday, Aug. 4, at 6:30 p.m. in City Council Chambers.