The city and county are conducting tense negotiations about which government body is going to fund the operations and maintenance of the parks within the city limits.
A 20-year agreement between the city and county has expired, and the two sides are posturing for the best deal.
Traditionally, the county has covered the cost of operating parks, even within its municipalities, but now with tightening budgets and the increasing cost projected for Newtown’s Robert L. Taylor Community Complex (tripling from $400,000 to $1.2 million), the county wants to relieve itself of much of that obligation. And the city is trying to ensure that it doesn’t have to pay those costs once the Robert L.
Taylor’s facelift is complete next summer.
“The main issue is equity, and whether the city is getting equitable treatment,” said Marlon Brown, assistant city manager. “The county is funding parks-and-recreation programs in North Port and Venice.”
Brown argues that the city of Sarasota contributes about three times the ad valorem taxes ($24 million per year) to the county that those other two cities do.
The county currently funds city parks for $2.9 million annually. It collects nearly $600,000 to offset some of those operations and maintenance costs.
About $400,000 currently goes toward Robert L. Taylor, but the improvements to the complex are adding about $800,000 in operations and maintenance costs.
To offset that jump in funding, the city is proposing taking control of 15 neighborhood parks (see box), which the county currently pays about $500,000 to operate.
The city considers Robert L. Taylor more of a regional center that will draw people from outside of the city, so it considers that better suited for the county.
Brown is drafting a letter, which will be sent to the county to outline that proposal.
Larry Arnold, the county’s executive director of community services, said the county is waiting to receive that letter before it responds to the specific proposal.
The city of Sarasota is proposing taking over operations of 15 neighborhood parks. The county had been spending $500,000 per year to run those parks. The city would pay that cost, which it said would offset the extra $800,000 it’s asking the county to pay to operate the Robert L. Taylor Community Complex.
The following are the neighborhood parks the city would control:
AB Smith Park
Bay Island Park
Bird Key Park
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park
Fruitville Road Park
Indian Beach Park
Mary Dean Park
North Water Tower Park
Orange Avenue Park
Whitaker Gateway Park
Contact Robin Roy at [email protected].