submitted by Marty Proctor
Mascotte City Council unanimously approved a tentative budget and millage tax rate for 2019-2020 fiscal year on September 11, without drama. The tentative operating budget of $8,865,500 includes the cost for City services including operations, solid waste collection, street lighting, and public safety/fire protection. The new budget includes the construction of a new $3 million fire station on Putnam Avenue. The fire station resolution includes a variety of funding and location options that are being investigated to help the City pay for the new station.
The tax millage rate was approved at $7.5500 per thousand dollars of taxable value. This is 0.81% below the ‘rolled back’ rate of 7.6117. That rate is the amount that would generate the same amount of property tax revenues as approved for the prior year. Mascotte is one of only two cities in Lake County actually reducing taxes by assessing millage below the rolled-back rate. Current Mayor and Council member Barbara Krull commented, “I am proud to be a part of the City Council lowering the millage rate without cutting any services to the citizens of Mascotte.”
The new lower millage rate was the sixth consecutive year of reduced tax rates. How the City accomplished this record of reductions is a story in itself. From 1983 to 2012, the City accumulated seven loans for a total of $5,905,381. The debt had maturity dates ranging from December 2016 to November 2032 with interest rates as high as 5.05%. The situation was so dire that in mid-2011 local news media reported that Mascotte was in immediate danger of takeover by the State of Florida. Newly appointed Interim City Manager Jim Gleason stated at the time, “The City has and will continue to pay all financial obligations and has not committed any violation that would need the State of Florida’s intervention or oversight.” Today he adds, “when appointed in February 2011, I was shocked at the level of debt and the lack of a funding plan.”
During the period from 2012 to September 2018, the City Staff and Council implemented a plan to pay off that debt early. As of September 30, 2018, the City had completely retired the $6 million debt. The early retirement of the debt has proven the mettle of those words back in 2011. It also shows the City Council and Staff long term commitment to financial responsibility. Now the City Manager for 8+ years Mr. Gleason shared, “a great core of staff, new Finance Director (Dolly Miller), and a team effort got us to this point of full repayment and restored a strong reserve fund.”