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Patterson added, "Frankly, I guess I would rather have had … a board discussion than read it in an email." She then told Staub, "But I appreciate your copying us on your email. And I have to say that I was feeling a little bombarded by emails that were very negative on this as well …" Patterson pointed out that she had explained to people who had talked with or emailed her that "we would see at budget time just how far behind the eight ball that we are" in terms of funding to pay for parks maintenance and other ongoing county expenses. Nonetheless, she said, "No matter how far behind we are on the eight ball, I think we should instruct [County Administrator Jim] Ley to have staff withdraw the RFP." "Somebody has to maintain the beaches," Mercier pointed out. The county also needed to continue to employ lifeguards and to pro- vide parking at beach accesses that had no spaces. He added, "There are other opportunities for funding to make up for these maintenance and management needs. We're just going to have to find 'em." BACK TO THE FUTURE On Feb. 19, Commission Chairman Hines pointed out to the News Leader that he recently had visited the beach in Clearwater, where paying to park is a fact of life. He and his family looked at that as "no big deal," he added, as it is not unreasonable to ask tourists to help cover the cost of beach maintenance. Considering the situation locally, he pointed to the example of the parking meter saga in downtown Sarasota a couple of years ago: The City Commission chose to remove the devices after a multitude of complaints from residents. "We never really heard our community advo- cate" paid parking at the beach, he said. If the County Commission were to pursue such a plan, he added, full-time residents could be made exempt from paying. "I think we could be creative." Commissioner Mason told the News Leader that when she first came on the county board in 2008, "My answer would have been 'No'" if she had been asked if she would support requiring people to pay to park at the beaches. However, given the never-ebbing demand for beach lot spaces, she continued, "I would consider it. … I think we have to look at everything. I may not support it in the end." Still, she added, "I think [considering it] would be the important thing to do." While the 2008 County Commission was look- ing at a $38 million shortfall in revenue at the outset of FY 2009 budget discussions, the cur- rent board is looking at a hole of about $28 million for FY 2015. As it has over the past several years, it anticipates using Economic Uncertainty, or "rainy day," funds to balance that budget. However, figures presented during the board's first workshop on the FY 2015 spending plan — held Feb. 21 — showed the county's FY 2016 budget could have a $18,936,003 gap to fill — and no more rainy day funds will be left to help out. (See the related FY 2015 budget story in this issue.) % Sarasota News Leader February 28, 2014 Page 13

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