Our View: Sarasota's own fiscal cliff


Our View: Sarasota's own fiscal cliff


Date: August 16, 2012
by: Observer Staff



Sarasota City Commissioner Terry Turner usually doesn’t engender hugs and kisses for the way he approaches issues and interacts on the dais with his fellow commissioners. But give him this: There is almost always substance over style.

Turner, the Ph.D. economist, has taken the lead on the commission to try to awaken taxpayers and commissioners to the reality that, on its present course, the city is headed over a fiscal cliff, right along side the U.S. government.

The city’s cliff isn’t nearly as deep as that of the nation’s. Nor is it just a few months away. But the specter of going over this cliff, nonetheless, should be alarming to every city taxpayer — businesses and individuals alike.

As Turner told members of the City Coalition of Neighborhood Associations two Saturdays ago, the city of Sarasota is on track to rack up a $20 million general-fund deficit by fiscal 2022. This year’s deficit is $3 million, or roughly seven times less than what city Finance Director Chris Lyons is forecasting.

Take a look at the graphic above. Lyons did projections that demonstrate what is likely to happen to city expenses and revenues over the next decade.

These forecasts aren’t just smoke. They’re real. And if you attended the CCNA meeting, you heard Turner. There are no ifs, ands or buts — city taxes will have to rise.

But that’s not all. Turner also flashed a slide that spelled out five options to address this real and growing deficit:

• Implement recently approved police-pension reductions.

• Increase property taxes.

• Additional cuts in healthcare and pension benefits.

• Do things differently.

• Increase city population 20% (by 10,000).

He estimates each of these steps would generate between $3 million to $5 million.

If Sarasota had an elected-CEO mayor, he could begin building coalitions to do what must be done.

+ Elected mayor: Speak out
Speaking of a CEO mayors, the Sarasota City Commission is expected Monday to discuss Commissioner Paul Caragiulo’s proposed charter amendment to create an elected-CEO mayor form of government. It’s still a work in progress, he says, subject to citizen input and modifications. But he is hoping to have the idea vetted enough to be placed on the city’s March ballot.

Caragiulo is likely to attempt in the afternoon session (starting at 2:30 p.m.) to have the item moved to the commission’s Monday night session, which will begin at 6 p.m. at City Hall.

Hopefully this time around, a lot of citizen comment will be welcomed — and encouraged.

To read the details of the proposal, go to: YourObserver.com/electedmayor.


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Currently 3 Responses

  • 1.
  • Years & years of city managers & five little mayors got us here. Maybe we need one leader elected as a mayor, not a parade of ceremony MC's.
  • Paul A. Cajka
    Fri 17th Aug 2012
    at 6:40pm
  • 2.
  • There is never enough space to truly explain to the Taxpayer how Government Pensions work, as there are some variations to some.

    But one item is certain, the Public Safety employees {POLICE & FIRE} are at a great disadvantage…By law, they cannot strike…Their only avenue is to point out discrepancies to the City regarding low pay and safety issues. Other than trying to negotiate their concerns, the Police & Fire Departments or Public Safety Unions, have no power, especially regarding how the City Pensions operate.

    But the City of Sarasota simply makes false promises…then blames the employees.

    The City of Sarasota…for the past 40 + years…The Evolution of the Tactics of the City is always the same…Basically a 30 year Conspiracy of STALL TACTICS ,the City appoints their negotiators to meet with the Public Safety Representatives…

    The Goal is to offer the least amount of actual money from the City Coffers for any increases in Salaries…The City’s ultimate tactic, to avoid fair salaries, is to offer a substitute, that being a New Benefit or to Increase certain Benefits…the prime example being Healthcare Benefits…or offer a better Retirement System {Pensions}

    As the years go by {and decades}…and the low employee wages become an issue …the City Negotiators, in response, will offer some increase in Pension Plans, all to avoid that immediate issue of Fair Salary increases for the employees.

    The City Goal in this long term tactic is simple…make Promises, and every year or so, remind employees that “current funds are short”…but then the City reminds the employees of the prior City Promises of good Healthcare & good Pension Benefits the employees will have in Retirement…Here’s the secret…the City Staff knows full well that those negotiators & those Commissioners, will be replaced every few years…and be "long gone" when the City’s Promises comes due.

    This tactic has lasted for almost 30 years, but now employees are starting to retire, requiring the City to start having to pay for those Promises…

    The City, over those 30-40 years did not always invest their promised share to the Pension plan…But the employees always paid their required 8% deduction from their paychecks over those many years. The Employees kept their Promise…the City of Sarasota, just when their Promises start to come due, doesn’t want to pay their share…so the City decides they want a “DO-OVER”.

    The City Employees have always stood by their Promises & Agreements…while the City has decided to Ignore their Agreements…and then, to top it off, the City sits back, distorts the facts and make the Public think it is the Employees & Retiree’s fault…that the City failed to pay their share and also failed to keep their word.

    Shame on the City of Sarasota
    Fri 17th Aug 2012
    at 4:14pm
  • 3.
  • Strong, elected mayor--yes!!!
  • Milan Adrian
    Thu 16th Aug 2012
    at 5:02pm
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