Reporter

Here are highlights from the government budgets

The new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

 In recent weeks, staff at the cities of Kissimmee, St. Cloud and Osceola County have been busy finalizing figures to bring before council and commission boards for approval.

Crafting budgets is a year-round process that typically begins in January. By the time local leaders approve a final budget, it has already gone through months of meetings, workshops and tentative drafts.  

All three governments avoided raising the mileage rate this year, an equation used to determine how much residents pay in property taxes.

Because budgets can be lengthy and confusing, we’ve highlighted some key aspects of fiscal year 2018-19 for Osceola County, Kissimmee and St. Cloud – and a state mandate that has made a major impact on all of them.

City of Kissimmee

The Kissimmee Commission approved a 2019 budget of $187.5 million, including: Money to help secure a new air traffic control tower at Kissimmee Gateway Airport. The airport has acquired significant property since the current air traffic control tower was built in the 1990s, and it’s too small now to serve the airport’s needs.

But traffic control towers aren’t cheap and the Federal Aviation Association seldom awards grants to airports that already have a tower in place, according to City Manager Mike Steigerwald.

The city set aside $30,000 this year to hire a federal lobbyist in hopes of getting the tower and improving economic development opportunities at the airport.

 New downtown Kissimmee bus circulator service coming soon. The city is partnering with LYNX to offer a free downtown bus circulator beginning in January. The system will be like the LYNX Lymmo system in downtown Orlando, with a fixed route and buses that can seat about 20 to 25 people, according to Kissimmee Public Information Officer Melissa Zayas-Moreno.

The city set aside $30,000 in the Development Services’ budget for five wrappings that will adorn the buses once the program begins.

The city’s Development Services department also has $50,000 budgeted for pedestrian and trail improvements within the city.

 Kissimmee still exploring Civic Center renovations. Funds have already been spent on a study earlier this year to explore the feasibility of converting the Kissimmee Civic Center into a performing arts center. After the study was complete, city commissioners decided to move forward with more project planning, with the help of the County Commission.

The county will now help pay for the renovation through tourism development taxes, and the city has budgeted $160,000 on roof repairs at the Civic Center in the meantime. Once the renovation is complete, the non-profit group Osceola Arts – operated by County Commissioner Brandon Arrington – has volunteered to oversee the facility’s operations.

St. Cloud

St. Cloud is the last of the three municipalities to adopt its final fiscal year budget. The City Council is set to do so tonight. St. Cloud’s budget this year topped just over $152 million.

Some highlights include:

 Higher wages for city employees. St. Cloud city employees will see a 4.86 percent salary increase to reflect findings in a recent independent salary study. The estimated cost to implement the raises is $1.5 million. Non-union employees will see a 2 percent cost of living salary increase.

 Over 30 new city employees hired. Thirty-four new city employees were hired this year. Many were clustered in public safety, including 14 at the St. Cloud Police Department and six at St. Cloud Fire Rescue. The total cost for these new positions is $1.8 million.

Osceola County Commission

The county adopted a fiscal year budget of $1.17 billion earlier this month.

Some highlights include:

 $9 million for road resurfacing. The adopted budget includes funding to resurface 122 miles of road, with district 3 receiving the greatest share at just over 48 miles.

 Approximately $2.9 million for environmental and engineering processes (PD&E study) to determine impacts associated with improvements to Neptune and Simpson roads. The county is funding the existing PD&E Study using Mobility Fees collected from developers, and has also applied for a federal grant, which could fund most of the project.

 Approximately $3.3 million in Tourist Development Tax funds for improvements to Osceola Heritage Park.

The state SRO mandate

Local officials across Florida grappled with an unusual budget challenge this year, thanks to a partially unfunded mandate implemented by the state legislature following a Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

The new law requires a school resource officer (SRO) at every public and charter school – and two at every high school.

 In Kissimmee, 12 out of 13 new police positions were hired to meet the SRO mandate at a cost of $784,538.

 St. Cloud also saw a major hiring uptick in its police department with 14 new hires for the 2019 fiscal year.

 The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office also hired dozens of new law enforcement officials.