Last week I wrote about the Apopka 2025 Visioning plan, its expensive and expansive dreams for our town. Our City Commissioner meet Wednesday afternoon to approve Resolution 2016-13, giving a final blessing from our City Commission to this plan. The plan has been revised some, prettied up with more colorful graphs and charts, and more flowery forward sounding buzzwords and phrases. If you recall, last week, I estimated the cost of this plan, if fully implemented, at a conservative $60 million dollars. I am here to report I was wrong on that estimate. According to the Updated Vision plan, the 33 strategies will actually cost an initial estimate of $79 million dollars.. Let that sink for just one moment. An INITIAL estimate of $79 million dollars. And where will that money come from? “While the City’s budget and 5-year capital improvements Plan ultimately determine fundable projects and achievable deadlines, this plan is intended to become part of the FY 2017 Budget to guide future city planning efforts and prioritize corresponding budget decisions”, according the plan summary. Also, “recommended annual plan updates will allow for unforeseen dynamics and ever changing priorities”. Citizens, you can guarantee that our property taxes will shoot up this year.
Don’t know about anyone else, but $79 millions for 20/20 Vision? And most of it funded by taxpayers. Within the reporting is a summary of funding sources available for many of the 5 pillars of this plan..Most of it via State or Federal Agencies (all taxpayer monies), or Federal or private grants (all with various strings attached). Much of the funding will be to pay for more studies that will be needed, as well as many additional City managers and personnel to implement this vast plan. And again, this does not seem like it includes any expenses for our City Center. I had to laugh at two of the charts included in the plan. One read was titled “Future spending/budget focus” the other titled “How to Pay”. The first chart had entries like new pool/splash park, multipurpose gym/fitness complex (don’t we already have 2 of those: the NW Recreation Complex and the New Cooper Sportsplex), and in the same chart “manage the budget/taxes”. News flash, you cannot do both! And how to pay? Among the recommendations, public-private partnerships, other public agencies, hold the line on taxes (again, how do you do that with this grand scheme of dreams), impact fees and enterprise funding. We asked for some sit-down restaurants and upscale retail, and ended up with a plan that has truly gotten away from us. A plan where the only ones making any real money will be these planners and consultants.
At this same meeting, the City is asking to pull another $300,000.00 out of our Reserve Fund for among other things, unexpected and unbudgeted costs incurred to date. I would have to check, but I am wondering how many requests have been made to date to draw upon the City’s hard earned and saved reserve funds and exactly how much is left in our fund. And after the Visioning Plan is implemented will we have ANY reserves left?
Citizens of Apopka, our Vision has been hijacked by planners, consultants and fans of Agenda 21. We the taxpayers will be footing the bill for this scheme of dreams; all that is left to determine is which pocket the money will be pulled from: Local, State or Federal Taxes ALL come from OUR wallets. And with our Federal National Debt at $19 Trillion and growing how much longer can we rely on Federal Agencies and Federal Grant Money? Do we need a plan? Of course! Do we want some nice restaurants and nice retail in our town? Undoubtedly? But is seems our Vision has gotten bigger and MUCH more expensive than anyone even imagined (expect for the planners and consultants of course). It seems to have gotten away from us. Let’s rope the plan back a bit and make it OUR plan. How ’bout starting more modestly and within our means? Are we really willing to risk bankrupting our town and our future because of a scheme of dreams that could easily turn into our recurring nightmare?