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East County Wednesday, Jul. 1, 2020 3 months ago

Manatee County officials come up with 4% budget solution

Manatee County prepared to push ahead on 44th Avenue extension, new Lakewood Ranch library.
by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

As Manatee County commissioners prepare to discuss and finalize the fiscal year 2021 budget, projects in the Lakewood Ranch area seem to have avoided the chopping block.

Manatee County Administrator Cheri Coryea said she is recommending to move forward with major projects, including construction of the new Lakewood Ranch library and a future expansion of 44th Avenue East across Interstate 75, despite a 3.9% reduction in the county’s net budget, now $710.7 million.

Also still funded are a traffic signal at the intersections of Kay Road and Port Harbour Parkway (near

Bennett Park) and the reconstruction of the Mill Creek and Gates Creek bridges on Upper Manatee River Road.

Coryea and Financial Director Jan Brewer said because of uncertainties around the COVID-19 pandemic and how its impacts would affect certain revenues, they have planned for losses.

Helping to limit budget cuts is Manatee County’s budget stabilization fund that Coryea said was developed initially to help Manatee County weather the housing recession a decade ago. It now is at $20.5 million, and those funds will help the county face future financial uncertainties, whether that means impacts from COVID-19 or other disasters.

Coryea’s preliminary budget proposal, presented to Manatee County commissioners June 26, anticipates a 20% reduction in state funding, as well as a 20% reduction in revenues from a half-cent sales tax. Those reductions equate to a loss of $7.3 million.

The county also anticipates a 40% reduction in infrastructure sales tax revenues, which normally bring in about $26.7 million annually.

Coryea said some of the projects it would fund are on “hold,” though she is not recommending any be removed from the county’s project list. A multipurpose building at Premier Sports Campus would be an example of a project that could be put on hold.

“The recommendation is to monitor the tax over the next six months and adjust the budget accordingly once further information is known about the market,” Coryea said. 

The East County library and the future expansion of 44th Avenue East across I-75 are not being delayed because they are being funded from impact fees. 

Coryea said property taxes should generate $271.6 million, or 38.2% of funding for the budget, and that figure reflects 7.1% growth, or $18.1 million more, in property tax revenues. 

Brewer said the county paid off about $4 million in debt, which also has helped to mitigate revenue reductions.

Coryea’s proposed budget includes a 1.5% increase allowing for employee pay adjustments, $6.5 million for a disaster recovery fund, the addition of ambulance crews both in Myakka City and along University Parkway and additional staffing for the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.

Overall, there is a 3.9% budget reduction — equating to $28.6 million — over the prior year for the net $710.7 million 2021 fiscal budget, which includes reserves, internal services and transfers. 

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