Cheaper era for Village merchants begins

 

Cheaper era for Village merchants begins

 

Date: September 13, 2012
by: Alex Mahadevan | News Editor

 
 

The “resort-style” atmosphere promised for Siesta Key Village will cost much less for merchants than what Sarasota County estimated this year — and what they paid for maintenance the three previous years.

Championship Landscape Maintenance Professionals, a Fort Myers-based company with operations in Bradenton, started Village upkeep Sept. 10. Sarasota County staff will be out for the next month guiding the company, which inked a $97,000 contract for annual work in the Siesta Key Village Improvement District.

The Siesta Key Village Maintenance Corp., which is run by Director Mark Smith, will direct the company’s general activities while county staff lends its technical assistance during the transition. For example, included in the contract are 50 weekly pressure-washing sessions.

Siesta Key Village Association members during several monthly meetings this year have bemoaned the lack of that type of maintenance performed by the county.

“It looks good, and I’m confident that they’ll do a good job,” Smith said of Championship’s first two days. “Village maintenance has been in a bit of turmoil over the last three years.”

Village merchants, who contribute to county Fund 118 for maintenance, will pay between $80,000 and $50,000 less than the county forecasted for the 2013 fiscal year.

Sarasota County Chief Financial Planning Officer Steve Botelho said in an email to County Commissioner Nora Patterson an additional $27,000 (on top of the $97,000 maintenance contract) is expected from property owners in the district for waste management, irrigation and other county upkeep. That brings the total to about $124,000 — a significant reduction from the $210,000 of estimated expenditures out of Fund 118 in the proposed 2013 budget.

“I expect a dramatic adjustment in the next fiscal year for the (previous years’) maintenance costs,” Smith said. The county assessed Village property owners roughly $207,000 in the previous fiscal year, and during the Feb. 21 County Commission meeting, County Traffic Operations Manager Ryan Montague said operational costs for Village maintenance would be $183,000.

Smith has requested receipts for every county expense in the Village during the 2012 fiscal year to determine if property owners are owed back-tax dollars. Botelho, in the same email, said that total up to mid-August was $58,000.

When the district is over-assessed for a fiscal year, the county artificially lowers the following year’s assessments. There will likely be lower assessments for Village merchants in the coming years, he said.

Smith said fiscal communication has been difficult, but that he will continue to analyze county spending.
“We can’t give up, because it’s our money,” Smith concluded.

 

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