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In late May, Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and Chief Information Officer Rafael Mena were invited to present technology innovations that inform and engage the public in emergency preparedness and response activities to President Barack Obama, the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa Monaco, and almost 20 other representatives from federal, state and local agencies at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Headquarters in Washington. In addition to Orange County, the Commonwealth of Virginia and U.S. Dept. of Energy were also invited.

Orange County presented its free OCFL Alert (Android | Apple) and OCFL 311 (Android | Apple) mobile apps, which assist residents before, during and after emergency situations. OCFL Alert is a first-of-its-kind emergency notification and information app that provides critical information, such as open shelter locations, evacuation routes, and water and ice distribution centers during emergencies. The OCFL 311 app allows users to photograph, pinpoint and report problems, from potholes to hazardous sidewalk cracks, directly from their smartphone to Orange County’s 311 Service Center. The group also received information about the OCFL News (Android | Apple) app that was created to provide citizens with breaking news and timely government information. These smartphone apps are available for both Android and Apple platforms, and have helped to revolutionize how Orange County protects and informs its citizens and visitors in an emergency.

To download these apps, please visit Orange County’s mobile applications page.


Orange County’s $3.4 billion budget for fiscal year 2014-2015 provides more services and improved infrastructure with no increase in taxes for the third year in a row for local citizens. The new budget reflects the community's positive gains in job creation, economic development, property values, sales tax collections, and the continued, record-breaking numbers of domestic and international visitors in Orange County.

Since the height of the recession, Orange County's unemployment rate has dropped from 11.3 percent in late 2010 to our current 6.2 percent in August 2014 — a figure that represents an increase of more than 87,000 jobs from January 2011 to August 2014.

Property values are estimated to be up 7.5 percent countywide for the coming budget year. Orange County has not raised the countywide millage rate for 25 years.

With nearly 60 million people visiting Orange County in 2013, sales tax and tourist tax collections rose to record amounts. While revenue sources such as property taxes and impact fees are still below their pre-recession levels, prudent fiscal policies and conservative spending provide a solid platform for continued recovery.

Thanks to the six percent tax that guests and visitors pay at hotel rooms and vacation rentals, increased tourism tax revenue continues to fund important quality-of-life amenities in Orange County. The fiscal year 2014-2015 budget for the Tourist Development Tax is $194.5 million — a two percent increase over the current year budget. These funds are used for economic drivers like the Orange County Convention Center and the construction and renovation of other venues like the Amway Center, the Citrus Bowl, the new Major League Soccer Stadium, and the new Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.

This fiscal year, sales tax revenue is budgeted at $154.5 million, a seven percent increase over the current year budget. Healthy sales tax revenues are important to Orange County and our citizens because of their "versatility." For instance, nearly $67 million in sales tax funds will be used in the Public Works budget for fiscal year 2014-2015 to maintain county roads and drainage structures. Sales tax revenue has become an integral piece of the Public Works' budget given the lack of growth in gas tax revenue for more than a decade.

As a result of new construction and rising property values, our property tax revenue — Orange County's largest source of revenue for general government services — is anticipated to increase 7.5 percent. The budget for countywide property taxes in fiscal year 2014-2015 is $400.9 million. These funds are used for a wide variety of services and infrastructure improvements, such as Corrections, Parks, Animal Services, Public Transportation, and Code Enforcement. Public safety continues to be one of Orange County's top priorities, and accounts for 54 percent of the overall tax-based operating budget, with $484 million allocated for the Sheriff's Office, Fire Rescue and Corrections.


The year 2014 was also a year of transformation for our Orange County Animal Services (OCAS) team. Building upon the good work of our many dedicated Animal Services staff and volunteers, Mayor Jacobs realigned the structure of OCAS, including a more active role for the OCAS Advisory Board. As local animal lovers and rescue organizations know, Orange County Animal Services is the only open-admission shelter in Central Florida, which means no animal is ever turned away. As a result, the shelter receives an enormous number of animals — about 50 dogs and cats are received every day, for a total of nearly 23,000 animals last year. For more than 40 years, the OCAS mission has been to protect the citizens and animals of Orange County, and hopes to give abandoned and neglected pets a second chance to live long, healthy lives in safe, loving homes. The shelter has seen a steady increase in adoptions over recent months, while also noticing a downward trend in incoming animals.

In addition, there has been an increase in the live-release rate, with 54.6 percent of the pets that entered the shelter last year either being adopted, rescued or reunited with their owners. This is the first recorded year of a live-release rate of more than 50 percent!

Crediting the expansive reach and successful use of social media, the shelter reached record high adoption numbers this past summer. The shelter initially hit a record high adoption month in June with 569 pets adopted. The success continued with 646 adoptions in July and 693 adoptions in August, with 364 dogs, 322 cats and seven smaller pets — including rabbits, guinea pigs and ferrets — leaving the shelter with new "forever families." This is the highest number of adoptions in the shelter's history and tops August 2013 adoption rate by 63 percent.

In the past few months, the shelter has also found success in being open seven days a week and removing animal breed descriptions. Many of the dogs and cats that enter the shelter are found as strays and most of them are mixed breeds.

Animal services posted pictures of several pets online that quickly grew popular. Shelter dogs took part in the national Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS on Facebook. Another Facebook video posting of a spunky kitten named Turkey and its gobble-like sound gained popularity around the world and resulted in a segment on ABC’s Good Morning America. The exposure eventually gained the attention of more than 80,000 online.

In addition to social media, photos donated by Pawsitive Shelter Photography helped with the historic adoption numbers. The group volunteers twice a week to take photos that reveal the personalities of the pets. Special promotions also brought in adopters, such as “Cinco de Meow” and “Catlumbus Day.” The “Hot Dogs and Cool Cats Adopt-a-thon” held in May was the shelter’s most successful in its 40-year history, with 140 adoptions in just one day. Orange County Animal Services, Central Florida’s largest pet rescue and adoption center, handles more than 20,000 animals received annually with the help of more than 200 volunteers.


Free health screenings and detailed information sessions helped attendees of the 2014 Mayor’s Health Summit learn how to make healthier lifestyles choices. Citizens were offered access to measurement tools like blood pressure and lipid checks, Body Mass Index readings and developmental screenings. Participants of the Summit, held at the Renaissance Senior Center in East Orange County, had the opportunity to visit Florida Hospital’s mobile mammography unit while Orlando Health representatives assisted with vital health screenings. Lake Nona’s Nemours Children’s Hospital also offered child developmental screenings. Details on diabetes, colon cancer, breast cancer and cervical cancer were provided in information sessions.


The men and women who work quietly behind the scenes buying the materials, supplies, equipment and services for Orange County were recognized for their best practices by the National Procurement Institute (NPI). The NPI awarded the Orange County Procurement Division the 2014 Achievement of Excellence in Procurement Award for safeguarding taxpayer dollars. The division received high scores in innovation, professionalism, e-procurement, productivity and leadership. It is one of only six agencies in Florida that has received this award every year since the award was first given in 1996.


In March 2013, Mayor Jacobs convened community leaders to serve on an ad hoc Sustainability Committee, with the goal of creating a Sustainability Plan for Orange County. After reviewing and providing input on the Sustainability Assessment, which provides a summary of Orange County’s current status, the Committee developed a Sustainability Plan with goals, targets, strategies, and metrics covering seven focus areas: Arts and Culture; the Built Environment; Civic Engagement; Community; Education; Mobility; and Natural Resources. Orange County's Sustainability Plan, titled "Our Home for Life," was presented to the BCC on May 13, 2014, and outlines strategies to plan for future population growth in a way that enhances the quality of life for current and future generations. The plan outlines specific incremental and transformative changes for the County through 2040, leading towards a more prosperous, healthy, livable, and connected community. Also in 2014, Mayor Jacobs hosted two community workshops to receive input from citizens on how to make Orange County a better and more sustainable region for generations to come. Attendees were invited to visit and engage with each of the seven focus-area stations, and members of the subcommittees who developed the goals and strategies for the plan. Additionally, many citizens registered for PlaceSpeak, an innovation online Town Hall application that Orange County uses to receive feedback on elements of the draft plan. To learn more about Orange County’s Sustainability Plan, please visit Orange County’s Sustainability web pages.