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NEWS BRIEFS Sarasota County Commission action this week will keep extra funds flowing to beach maintenance. Photo by Rachel Hackney EXTRA BEACH MAINTENANCE FUNDING WINS APPROVAL With no speakers present to address the issue on April 24, the Sarasota County Commission unanimously approved a change to the Tourist Development Tax (TDT) ordinance that will keep extra beach maintenance funding in place for another two years and provide for a biennial review of the allocation instead of holding further public hearings on the matter. The extra money originally had been set aside for beach renourishment. This year, budget projections show $523,000 going to beach maintenance out of the TDT revenue. Although they questioned "chargebacks" for other departments out of the TDT beach maintenance allocation when they considered the matter during an April 9 discussion, no questions arose April 24 on that point. After the discussion, Commissioner Joe Barbetta told The Sarasota News Leader the county's method of accounting for staff work would be one topic of discussion when the commission holds a budget workshop on April 30. During the April 24 meeting, Ed Exner, manager of horticulture services for the county, reported that beginning in the 2010 fiscal year, staff began using TDT revenue to cover all possible permitted expenses "as a strategy to assist with shortfalls in the general fund" because of the recession. In the 2011 fiscal year, he noted, additional maintenance staff was added at the beaches to provide more service in the evenings and on weekends as well as for special events. In the 2012 fiscal year, Exner continued, the TDT revenue enabled his department to add five support personnel, making it possible to reduce some contractual services. Those extra people worked at the Lido, Siesta and Nokomis beaches along with beaches in the Venice area. In making the motion to approve the ordinance change, Commissioner Nora Patterson said, "It's logical … It enables us … even in times of tight budgets … to maintain our beaches to the standards that the commission has wished … as well as the public." Rachel Brown Hackney

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