Orange County growth putting pressure on public safety

Sheriff's Office, fire rescue asks for money in this year's budget

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – The Orange County Commission spent the past two days going over the budget and both Orange County Sheriff John Mina and Orange County Fire Rescue Chief Jim Fitzgerald are asking commissioners for millions more in their budget in order to to deal with growing pains in the county. 

According to a message from Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, the county is projected to get 1,000 new residents each week and with that, public safety needs to be a priority in the budget. 

Orange County Sheriff John Mina says his department is asking for an increase of $16 million for the 2019-2020 budget year, bringing the total budget for the Sheriff's Office to $267 million. 

Mina said most of that money will go to personnel, hiring 52 new sworn deputies and 24 civilian support staff. 

"We haven't asked for this many deputies in several years," Mina said. "As our county continues to grow, so does the need for more deputies."

In fact, Mina said, Demings, who formerly served as sheriff, commissioned a study that showed the county needs 127 new deputies. 

"The growth out there is huge, from the Lake Nona area all the way to Osceola County, it's just developing so quickly, and so is areas out west such as Horizons West," Mina added. 

[READ: Mayor Demings' message on the 2020 budget]

Because of that, the Sheriff's Office will also be rezoning its sectors, and adding a new Sector 7 -- representing southeast Orange County. 

Orange County Fire Chief Jim Fitzgerald is also asking for an increase of about $3.6 million to the department's $201 million budget.

This comes with the construction of three new fire stations over the next year, as well as the need to staff them. 

"Three under construction," Fitzgerald told commissioners. "Very few (fire departments) can boast they have three under construction. This is a commitment this board and this mayor has to the public safety of Orange County and its residents." 

[WEB EXTRA: 2020 budget highlights]

According to the county, there will be no need for tax increases to support the county's overall $4.7 billion budget. 

According to a fact sheet provided by the county, "taxable value in Orange County is $143.9 billion for 2019 and is estimated to generate $638 million in countywide property tax proceeds, which represents a 10.23% increase from 2018."

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