Winter Park City Commissioners approved a $1 million increase Monday to pay for undergrounding power lines and purchasing backup generators for sewage lift stations throughout the city.
The extra $1 million will transfer from water and wastewater reserves to the electric utility fund to assist with post hurricane improvements.
Winter Park voters passed a 2003 referendum by a 69 percent majority to allow the city to purchase Progress Energy Florida’s electric distribution facilities within the city. Progress Energy, a subsidiary of Duke Energy, had under grounded 20 to 25 percent of the power lines.
The city is under grounding lines at a rate of six miles a year. City Manager Randy Knight said the city budgets all revenue from the city’s electric department to pay for under grounding.
The under grounding discussion came during the city’s approval of a $165 million budget for fiscal year 2017-2018, which keeps the same millage rate at 4.0923 for a tenth year. Residents will still see an increase in their tax bills because property values in the city increased by 7.8 percent, according to the Orange County Property Appraiser.
The $1 million comes out of the 2017 budget.
Commissioner Pete Weldon tried to decrease the millage rate saying that the city’s commitment to underground the power lines comes with an power bill increase, however none of the other commissioners would second his motion.
Next year’s budget includes $3.5 million to pay for undergrounding but requires an average 4 to 6 percent increase in the average electric customer’s bill to offset declining revenue expectations and rising purchase power costs.