Commissioners concur on changing the town charter's language about revenue bonds, term limits and town elections.
Five Longboat residents considered months ago which changes they thought should be made to the town’s foundational document.
The Charter Review Committee drafted 30 changes to the town charter for the Town Commission to review, according to a memorandum sent last week to local policymakers. But at a commission workshop meeting Monday, all but four went unmentioned.
That’s because most of the proposed changes are administrative, designed to align Longboat Key with Florida law, said Charter Review Committee Chairwoman Pat Zunz, who presented the committee’s findings to commissioners. Town Attorney Maggie Mooney-Portale calls these “clean-up” suggestions.
“When the committee was looking at the sum of all their recommendations, most of them were not controversial,” Mooney-Portale said.
These changes will be bundled in a single referendum question presented to voters in March.
The four proposals policymakers did hear, however, sparked some debate.
"It went faster than I expected," Zunz said in an interview after her presentation to commissioners. "I think there will be much more discussion."
Here’s a breakdown of the proposed charter changes the Commission agreed voters should decide:
- What: Allowing the Town Commission to issue revenue bonds of $5 million or less (increased annually to account for inflation) funded by non ad valorem assessments — including revenue-producing utilities or facilities — and lease purchase debt under that amount without referendum.
Why: As the charter is written, any revenue bond the town issues — money the town spends on revenue-producing public entities, such as sewer facilities or emergency services — must be approved by voters. This change would allow the Town Commission to approve such purchases of $5 million or less using non ad valorem assessments.
Intended outcome: To expedite the process of issuing bonds for projects that are relatively small, costing less than $5 million.
- What: Adjusting commissioner term limits from three two-year intervals to two three-year terms and requiring an individual who has reached his or her term limit to take two years' leave, instead of one, before he or she is eligible for office again.
Why: Commissioners agreed that a two-year commitment to office is too short and therefore a disservice to the town. Most of them spent their first year learning the job and the latter part of their second campaigning.
Intended outcome: At-large Commissioner Irwin Pastor said extending the term another year would allow newcomers the time to acquaint themselves with the office and its duties.
- What: Eliminating primary elections and requiring candidates to receive 50% or more of the vote to assume office. If no one reaches 50%, a runoff, determined by simple majority, will be held at the discretion of the Supervisor of Elections.
Why: The charter now requires that any runoff between three or more candidates for a commission seat be presented to voters first in a primary election held months before the general election in March. This happened last in 2010, Town Clerk Trish Granger said at the meeting. These preliminary elections force candidates to get their message out sooner: a disadvantage come election season, At-large Commissioner Jim Brown said.
Intended outcome: The new timeline would alleviate the cost of these primary elections and simplify the selection process for candidates and voters alike.