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Longboat Key Monday, Jun. 27, 2022 3 months ago

Harmer tells Longboat Key he's retiring in December

Commissioners are expected to begin talking about how to replace him during the meeting Friday, July 1.
by: Eric Garwood Managing Editor

Town Manager Tom Harmer informed town commissioners and staffers on Friday that he intends to retire from his position in December at the end of his five-year contract, closing a career that included military service and roles in both the private and public sectors.

Harmer, 63, and the town would have been eligible for a three-year extension in August. Town commissioners are expected to begin instead talking about initial steps in replacing Harmer when they meet Friday, July 1 for the final time before their two-and-a-half-month summer hiatus.

"Managers don’t personally accomplish things. It is really the employees and the departments that make the difference," he wrote to town staffers, announcing his decision. "The town is fortunate to have such a high-caliber group of employees, and I have enjoyed being part of the team."

Harmer was recruited to the town from his role as Sarasota County administrator in June 2017 by then-Town Manager Dave Bullock, who likewise gave town commissioners about six months to weigh his replacement.

At the time, Harmer agreed to a $187,000 salary in a contract that included town retirement benefits of 17.8% salary ($33,286) deposited into a deferred compensation account.

"What a great opportunity for any manager as I consider Longboat Key to be the best place to be in municipal administration," he wrote. "It is obviously also one of the best places to live, work and play in the country as recognized numerous times over the past couple of years and supported by our local citizen survey results."

For nearly eight years beginning in 1999, the U.S. Marine Corps veteran served as fire chief in the Brevard County town of Titusville, rising to become emergency manager, executive director of the town’s community development agency and town manager.

After a stint as the senior vice president of an Orlando real estate development company, he returned to government as deputy county administrator in Sarasota and then county administrator.

In his letter to commissioners, Harmer said he would likely return to the private sector in a family business role but would likely remain connected to the town in some fashion. He and his wife Dee moved to Longboat Key in 2018.

"My oldest son has recruited me for some time to help him with some of his ventures and the timing is right as I complete my commitment to Longboat Key," he wrote.


Also on the agenda for Friday's meeting:

The budget

Commissioners will set a not-to-exceed millage rate for the 2023 fiscal year. Though some commissioners lobbied for an even lower threshold, a consensus this month settled on setting that rate at 1.99 per $1,000 of taxable value once tax assessors’ offices in Sarasota and Manatee counties deliver their final property figures.

Preliminary estimates in June showed the town topping $7 billion in overall value for the first time ever, rising about 13.5% from 2021. In comparison, Venice’s estimated values rose 18.5% to $5.7 billion; North Port’s rose 24.5% to $7.2 billion; Sarasota’s rose 17% to $14.6 billion. Longboat Key is the smallest of those municipalities.

If the town left its millage rate unchanged at 2.114 about $1.76 million in additional tax revenue would flow into the operating budget. At 1.95 (a 7.8% decrease), that figure falls to $608,917. At 1.99, it's $890,000. 

The proposed 2023 budget calls for $18.3 million in revenue, $13.7 of it from ad valorem taxes based on 1.95 millage. Expenses are budgeted at $17.8 million.


Town Center Green

Following a pair of over-budget bids and the subsequent withdrawl of one of them, Town Commissioners will face a choice on how to proceed with the site work and stage construction that make up Phase 2 of the overall project. At a workshop meeting on June 20, Commissioners voted by consensus to consider altering the town's proposed budget to account for the site work overage and catch up on potential private donors' willingness to help fund the stage construction.

Commissioners expressed hesitance to give up on the stage construction plan or rebid the project over concerns nothing would change. 

Since the workshop, the Longboat Key Foundation has been working the phones in an attempt to gain commitments for additional private financing. 


Trash collection

Commissioners will hear a request from operators of Waste Management Inc. for an adjustment in rates for collection and disposal of trash, yard waste and recyclables.

By contract, the company can request an annual adjustment in rates of up to 4% based on the Consumer Price Index, which recorded a May to May increase of 8.6% from 2021 to 2022 – its largest since September 2005.

Waste Management is requesting a 10.1% increase, based on the costs of fuel, labor and materials, and such an increase would require Town Commission approval through a resolution.

In materials provided by the company, a monthly bill for a home that uses a 96-gallon trash cart picked up twice a week, a 64-gallon recycling cart collected once a week and yard waste collected once a week would rise to $17.72.  

"These inflationary increases have substantially increased our cost to provide services to your town,'' wrote Bill Gresham, public sector solutions manager for Waste Management Inc. in a June 8 letter to the town. "These unexpected cost increases are requiring WM to seek this type of increase with nearly all our accounts.''

If approved, the new rates would take effect on Aug. 1.

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