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Sarasota Thursday, Aug. 16, 2012 5 years ago

Our View: Sarasota's own fiscal cliff


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:

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