Sarasota News Leader

09/28/12

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NEW IDEAS SOUGHT FOR NEWTOWN CRA Attendance was practically nonexistent as $2.1 million was offered up by the Newtown CRA for po- tential projects. Photo by Stan Zimmerman NEWS ANALYSIS By Stan Zimmerman City Editor The Community Redevelopment Agency for Newtown in North Sarasota is a cruel joke. It began at the worst possible time, because a tax-increment financing scheme underlies CRA activity. The idea – which poured millions into the downtown CRA – is to use the resulting dif- ference in property tax revenue over time for funding purposes. Theoretically, the land will become more valuable than it was when the taxing district that is the heart of the CRA was established. But the Newtown CRA was es- tablished at the peak of property values. Any difference between the base period and sub- sequent tax rolls has been negative. Without the expected, ever-increasing taxes paid on climbing property values, the CRA began broke and stayed broke. The Sarasota City Commission subsequently began financ- ing the Newtown CRA with money siphoned off from the Downtown CRA. During a meeting Wednesday evening, Sept. 27, the Newtown CRA Advisory Board was asked to face this reality and begin thinking unconventionally. "Our plan is outdated," said Redevelopment Director Lorna Alston. "When it was done [as a redevelopment plan] in 2002 and 2008, [when it was reconfigured into a CRA plan], our economies were significantly different than they are now. Monies were flowing. But not now. We have limited dollars and have to ask, how can we leverage these dollars?" Alston said the CRA has $2.1 million in its budget. She noted there are no line items be- low that figure, "because we have no line-item

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