Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium didn’t get the $15,000 in emergency funding it asked the town for Monday night when the Longboat Key Town Commission adopted the 2012-13 fiscal year budget.
Mote will continue to monitor the town’s approximately 12 miles of beach, a service that includes a variety of activities such as monitoring and documenting nests, hatchling events and false crawls, and ensuring lighting compliance. But, for the future, the non-profit will seek a funding model from the town along with other municipalities that includes turtle monitoring as an annual expense.
“We will do this,” Dr. Michael Crosby, Mote senior vice president for research, told the commission. “Mote is committed to funding (our) monitoring program. But we can’t continue it in the manner we are accustomed to. We will follow through with our core mission, but we respectfully ask if there’s any finding for us during tight times.”
The town decreased its funding for Mote’s turtle monitoring from $86,700 in 2011 to $23,600 for the current fiscal year.
According to a memo from Public Works Director Juan Florensa and Finance Director Tom Kelley, the town was required by previous permit conditions to monitor its entire beach. But, after those permit conditions expired, the town was only required to monitor a 1.5-mile stretch of beach from Greer Island, aka Beer Can Island, to near Gulfside Road as part of a beach-renourishment project completed in June 2011.
The reduction in funding came during a record year for turtle nesting, with 1,094 nesting activities reported in 2012 on the Key, compared to 536 in 2011. Additionally, Tropical Storm Debby was the largest single tropical-storm impact on turtle nests in 30 years, resulting in 77% of nests being washed away and/or losing marker stakes, which required extra staff hours and more monitoring, according to Mote.
Commissioners cited other organizations that had their funding reduced or eliminated from the budget in declining to increase Mote’s funding.
“Without a set of ground rules, you start picking and choosing and end up in hot water,” Vice Mayor David Brenner said. “I would ask the town manager if, perhaps, in the existing year’s operations if there were some monies not spent, perhaps we have a few dollars that could be made available.”
Mayor Jim Brown suggested that Mote promote itself more on Longboat Key to generate philanthropic contributions.
“Longboat Key has a lot of generous people out here who support a lot of things,” Brown said. “I don’t think they are aware of the troubles you are facing.”
Crosby told the Longboat Observer that Brown’s suggestion is a good one.
But, he said that he would like to see the funding model change in many municipalities, with turtle-monitoring funds becoming a part of the annual budget rather than the current model in which funding is required as part of a permit.
“We’re in discussion with other municipalities to evolve the funding model from one that is more reactionary and case-specific to one that is a standard operating procedure,” he said.
Commission approves 2012-13 fiscal year budget
The Longboat Key Town Commission approved a 2012-13 fiscal year budget Monday, Sept. 24, that’s flat compared to last year’s budget and, as expected, includes no tax increases.
Based on the current millage rate of 1.8872 mills, the town will generate $8,362,000 in ad valorem revenues, or $137,000 less when compared to a year ago. One mill is equal to $1 for every $1,000 of assessed valuation.
Longboat Key commissioners are granting a one-year reprieve to residents who were bracing for tax assessments regarding the town’s upcoming beach project.
Instead of assessing Key taxpayers for a $16 million sand-and-structure beach project starting this year, the town intends to assess taxpayers next summer.
When the commission approved the town’s budget on first reading earlier this month, it agreed to hold off on assessing beach debt millage taxes of .8 mills and .2 mills for Beach Districts A and B, respectively.
For taxpayers in District A, the beach-side of the island, a $500,000 home will see a $400 savings break in this year’s taxes. For taxpayers in District B, the Gulf-side of the island, a $500,000 home will see a $100 savings.
— Kurt Schultheis