A blog dealing with Sarasota County and the City of Sarasota.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Sarasota County 2009: Getting By on $43 million less

While I was at the County Commission meeting today Chief Financial Planning Officer Jeff  Seward showed up with some projections about revenue shortfalls anticipated in the coming year. Turns out Mr. Todora is projecting a 17% lower initial assessment on real property. The combined effects of tax cut legislation and these declining property values is estimated to carve $33 million out of next year's budget ( and another $6 million less when you factor in Emergency Management Services -- a fact had a big effect on me even though I didn't fully understand it). They are also projecting about $4 million less in sales tax revenue. So the best guess now is that the County will have $43 million less revenue next year. 

I think that may mean for every eight dollars the county had from property and other taxes last year, it may only have seven this year. That's significant.

People talk about the fat and I suppose there may be some incredible waste and inefficiency somewhere in county government (and I would encourage people that have an eye on some to write to me at jonosarasota@gmail.com).

But my guess is that next year's budget is going way beyond fat to muscle and in some cases, vital organs and bone.  Our local economy is suffering and we need come together and revive it -- not going back to old patterns that made our economy brittle, but forwards towards economic solutions that facilitate watching out for each other: buying locally, building on local strengths, investing locally, and moving towards resilience and sustainability. 

PS When I first drafted this I added wrong and came up with $41 million. It didn't take long to catch that, but the blog had already been posted and I think Sarasota Speaks may stick with the initial filing and not update blog changes. 

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Competing Models for the Sarasota County Commission: Balancing Board Members or Balanced Board Members?

I don't really think today's Sarasota Herald -Tribune captured my views regarding how the Sarasota County Commission will change as a result of this year's switches to the increased need for 4-1 and unanimous votes. 

I believe the old model of two 'sides' vying for swing votes (where you only needed three commission votes to move forward) will be replaced with a new model that will require developers to come forward with better plans (probably through increased use of charrettes or other techniques that involve citizens earlier). Commissioners will not be so pigeonholed and polarized and consequently can be more balanced in their decision-making. 

The spirit and community convergence that led to alternative Urban Service Boundary approach is evidence of the potential for this approach. 

Let's not backslide into 'us' versus 'them' thinking that involves trying to elect candidates to "balance slow growth forces". That is a perilous path that will set us backwards (and, incidentally, is not likely to work).

Instead we need all commissioners to recognize the public's frustration with how things were growing and chose a better course towards a new, more diversified and sustainable economy that provides jobs, restores home values, involves neighborhoods earlier and more sincerely, and protects Sarasota's special places; whether they are natural or cultural treasures. 

We can do better.