Your Tax Dollars at Work

City Commissioner Robert Stuart

City Commissioner Robert Stuart

If you are a property owner in the city of Orlando, you know that every summer you receive a TRIM (truth in millage) notice, which outlines what your anticipated rates will be for each jurisdiction that levies taxes on your property.

In the City Beautiful, that means you pay taxes to Orlando, Orange County and the St. John’s River Water Management District. And then you pay local and state school taxes, as well as an Orange County library tax.

The largest portion of your taxes, about 40 percent, goes to educate the leaders of tomorrow.

The city of Orlando receives about 34 percent of your tax dollars, with almost all of that going toward keeping our residents as safe as we can through top-notch police and fire protection.

But what else? Where do your city tax dollars go?

I want to highlight a small but important program that has assisted many small businesses in improving the exteriors of their buildings through new lighting, street-scaping, landscaping, signage, awnings, cleaning, painting, new windows and more.

Orlando’s Small Business Facade Program was instituted in 2006 and has since allocated more than $1.2 million to small businesses in the form of depreciating loans that are entirely forgiven within three to five years, depending on the amount borrowed. These loans can be used to pay up to 50 percent of the cost of qualifying exterior improvement projects.

District 3 businesses compose almost 40 percent of the businesses that have utilized this program since its inception, which makes me so proud of the entrepreneurial spirit in our community. Great businesses such as Christo’s Cafe, Gribble Interiors, Golden Phoenix Antiques, Sweat, Balance Orlando, Ten 10 Brewing and Infusion Tea have spent their hard-earned money, with assistance from the city, to improve the aesthetics of their spaces, which provides added value to our entire neighborhood.

Another smart program that encourages new businesses to locate to our community is the Business Assistance Program, which provides matching funds to new and expanding businesses in Orlando to assist in offsetting development fees. These fees can include sewer and transportation impact fees, building permit fees, and even all elements of public right-of-way infrastructure — within the city’s jurisdiction — that may require new installation, repair, replacement or relocation.

Eligible improvements would include items such as street lighting, fire hydrant installation, sidewalk repair, traffic signalization, water and sewer line construction, as well as curb, gutter, landscaping and street improvements. Structured similarly to the facade program, the Business Assistance Program requires eligible business owners pay 50 percent of the fees assessed against the business; the program fund pays the remaining 50 percent, up to $20,000.

Orange Cycle, for one example, utilized this program during their expansion a few years ago. Restaurants like PR’s Taco Palace in College Park and Osprey Tavern in Baldwin Park have also taken advantage of this grant.

These programs are a sound use of taxpayer dollars. They leverage a huge return when considering not only the capital investment these businesses make in our community but also the goods and services they provide to our residents, therefore improving our quality of life and making College Park and Orlando an awesome place to be!

As always, thanks for your support of our local businesses and our great city. I look forward to seeing you around the neighborhood this month.

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