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Posted on: November 5, 2018

Rick Hancock: Dunnellon Reveling in Financial Turnaround, Civic Gains

Rainbow River.jpg
Citizens of Dunnellon have many good reasons for being proud to say it's still the small town with a big heart!

In less than three years, the City of Dunnellon has overcome some pretty tough odds to resolve financial issues that prevented the city from moving forward. Council and staff adopted a process that required us to balance our operating budgets to revenues received, and with no use of reserves allowed. No new long-term debt is acceptable, unless there are long-term, recurring revenues to pay for it.

Council and staff has followed these simple rules for three years now, and they forced us to make many difficult decisions to improve the city's finances. The results of these efforts is the recent adoption of our fourth straight budget that lives within our means and without any reserves being used to fund operations.

The city's millage rate has been reduced from 7.5 to 6.5 for two years now. And, with the transition to the county fire fee being accelerated, there will be more opportunity for millage rate reduction, saving taxpayers another $194,000 in the process.

By the way, homeowners' and business insurance rates can be lowered due to a vastly improved city fire rating as well.

With the sale of the city's water/sewer utility last week, the city no longer has a debt problem. For the first time, the city's unrestricted reserves will be sufficient to cover emergency needs that meet acceptable auditing standards.

The City of Dunnellon is the Rainbow Rivers' best friend. During this same time period, more than $6 million in grant funding has been awarded to the city's water/sewer utility operation. These grants will be used to close three wastewater plants along the Rainbow River, connect more septics to sewer, upgrade the entire system, improve rate structures, and help to preserve and protect the Rainbow River Springshed corridor.

These latest utility efforts can be added to the list of prior efforts to convert the entire city from septic to sewer, extending riverfront setbacks, and reducing river traffic at Blue Run Park. The entire Rainbow River corridor will benefit even more thanks to Dunnellon.

Across the community, and through several Progress Dunnellon programs, more of our residents are getting their GED, learning English, and acquiring hands-on skills for well-paying trade jobs; and learning personal skills for improving their families lives.

Habitat for Humanity is preparing to once again build homes in Dunnellon for local families who are earning a hand up through this home building initiative.

The Dunnellon Chamber and Business Association is actively supporting local businesses while planning for future growth. And, move residents and small businesses are renovating their space with additional help from community redevelopment loans as well.

And, let's not forget that Dunnellon has just welcomed our first Publix Supermaket.

We are also planning for the future. Connecting bike trails to the heart of Dunnellon will provide new tourism opportunities - and this project is underway, including providing for more public parking to accommodate the growth. Thanks to our Planning Commission, we've recently completed a multi-year effort to update our development codes to be more fair and user-friendly, and to support positive development and smart growth.

Our focus and our challenge remains to make constant improvement whenever and wherever we can, and to build off the current results to constantly improve what we have. Many positive thinking people have been putting in the hard work to improve our community, with results to match.

And, there's always room for more folks to participate, so Dunnellon welcomes you to come join in the effort.

Published in the Ocala Star Banner: 11/4/2018
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