Sarasota News Leader

06/28/2013

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Sarasota News Leader June 28, 2013 OPINION property acquisition. On the other hand, $6.1 million went to public-private partnerships, and $20.7 million (about one-quarter of the total) went to "transfers." Page 72 In hindsight, we know not all of the money was spent wisely. Certainly, the incentive to Whole Foods to build its grocery store downtown made the area more livable. But incentives to the New York Times to keep the headquarters of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune downtown seem a poor investment. Redistributing some of the funds to buttress the Sarasota Police Department budget appears even more improvident. The agreement is good for 30 years. With 2016 fast approaching, the committee was empaneled to study the "post-CRA environment." Continue the CRA, modify it or kill it seem to be the three options. At this point, we are convinced the best option is the last one. The CRA has finished its job of ending slum and It is all water under the bridge: decisions made blight, and now it is time for somebody else and the money gone. to benefit from the revenue stream. The Sarasota County Commission entered A community redevelopment agency is not into the CRA agreement because it realized unique to Sarasota. CRAs were enabled by the a living, beating heart in the city was vital Florida Legislature in 1969. Englewood has for the area's biggest industry — tourism. If one; Bradenton has three of them; and oth- the downtown were to collapse — as it had er communities across the state have them, in many other Florida cities — the damage too. The CRAs all depend on a clever funding would spread far beyond the city center. It mechanism through which a portion of city would hurt tourism countywide. and county taxes are diverted to pay for im- Thanks to inflation, property speculation and provements in a specific area. real property value growth, downtown's worth In the case of Sarasota, the agreement froze swelled beyond the 1986 imaginings of either the City or County commission. But it brought the city and county receipts for property tax problems as well. revenue. Any increase in property values — and property taxes paid on them — would County commissioners saw a vibrant downgo to the CRA. In the beginning, the receipts town "skimming" $3.5 million every year in were tiny, but over time the property values county revenues. In fact, the county's budget in the downtown core have soared. projections for 2016, at the CRA's end, show the county portion of revenue coming back About $3.1 million in city property taxes aninto the general fund. And there are many nually are apportioned strictly to the CRA; for voices in the community beyond those of the county, the number is $3.5 million. Part of county commissioners suggesting "slum and the growth has come from inflation, and — for blight" in other areas deserve CRA-like attena bit of time — some of it was the result of tion. property speculation. Through thick and thin, the difference between the 1986 base and cur- The Laurel-Nokomis-Osprey area has begged rent taxes grew and grew. for a library for more than a decade, to no

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