Sarasota News Leader: The stab in the dark (3/29/13)

June 4, 2013 | By

Tom Barwin & Marlon Brown
This article originally appeared on (March 29, 2013).
A topic coming up early in the day is appoint- ment of an 11-member panel jointly proposed by Sarasota City Manager Tom Barwin and Sarasota County Administrator Randall Reid. The body would ponder the future of the Community Redevelopment Agency.

The CRA skims county property taxes paid in a defined area and devotes them to fighting “slum and blight.” The amount of money is substantial. This year the CRA has about $3 million to spend.

The deal was established 27 years ago to pre- serve a failing downtown corridor. In three years the deal expires. The county is already using the $3 million in its out-year budget pro- jections, and county commissioners have often eyed the money as a way to balance future budgets.

In a show of magnanimity at a joint city-county meeting on Feb. 5, the two boards agreed to examine the idea of extending the term of the CRA beyond 2016. The 11-member body would report back to Reid and Barwin by September.

Barwin nominated six people for the committee: Andy Dorr, Chris Gallagher, Mark Huey, Katie Leonard, Michael Beaumier and Frank Carol.

Reid nominated seven people: Chris Gallagher, Michael Beaumier, David Merrill, Bill Russell, Joel Freedman, Casey Colburn and Ernie DuBose.

Because two names appear on both lists — Gallagher and Beaumier — the nominations total 11. “Both administrators believe that eleven is a manageable number and recom- mends that they all be appointed to the com- mittee,” Barwin wrote.

The stakes are high. The city now uses $700,000 in CRA money to defray the cost of downtown policing. Both governments are running on unbalanced budgets, dipping into reserves to match ends and means. Will the county be willing to extend the CRA’s term and relinquish the money? And what would the city do without the funds?

These will be questions in the back of the minds of the 11 committee members, should the City Commission approve their nomination.

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