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Add the Downtown Sarasota Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) to the list of property tax-supported boards that are nearly broke. "There is some discretionary money available, but it will be hard to start other projects," said City of Sarasota Chief Planner Steve Stancel during a March 13 meeting. He was talking to the CRA's advisory board, a group of community leaders appointed to oversee the almost $7 million from this year's tax-increment financing. The city and county agreed to freeze their property tax receipts in 1986 in a defined area of downtown; any increase from that "base year" — the tax increment — would be used to improve the defined area. As property values ballooned, the increment increased until it was bringing in millions and millions. The Sarasota City Commission, sitting as the governing board of the CRA, decided where every dime went. And as time went on, less and less went to "bricks and mortar" projects, and more went into typical general fund responsibilities, such as down- town policing. As a percentage of the income, administration costs almost doubled. In 2003, the CRA provided almost $5 million to bring Whole Foods to downtown Sarasota. Photo by Norman Schimmel ANALYSIS: THE DOWNTOWN SARASOTA COMMUNITY REDEVELOPMENT AGENCY FACES A DOUBLE DEADLINE END OF THE LINE By Stan Zimmerman City Editor

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