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Longboat Key Commission has budget and more on its plate

Town Commission returns from summer break next week with key issues for consideration.

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  • | 2:24 p.m. September 1, 2020
Public street parking on Broadway in the Longbeach Village neighborhood has been a point of contention for years.
Public street parking on Broadway in the Longbeach Village neighborhood has been a point of contention for years.
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The Longboat Key Town Commission is set to reconvene this month for its first regular meeting since June following its traditional summer break.

But their time off wasn't all fun and games. Commissioners held two emergency meetings, one on July 2 and another Aug. 31, to establish mandatory face mask regulations in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, then renew the rules through November. 

Commissioners' first regularly scheduled meeting is set for 1 p.m. Sept. 14, followed by a so-called 5:01 meeting to take their first vote on adopting a town budget. State regulations require budget-adoption meetings be held after 5 p.m. A second such meeting is planned Sept. 29 for final adoption. 

With Gov. Ron DeSantis' emergency orders paving the way for local governments to meet virtually, Town Commissioners will continue to do so. 

 Here is a preview of what the commission will consider this fall:

Fiscal year 2021 budget

The current fiscal year ends Sept. 30.

A first reading for the proposed fiscal year 2021 budget is scheduled for Sept. 14. Commissioners are set to vote again on Sept. 29 for final approval.

Town Manager Tom Harmer has worked with Town Finance Director Sue Smith to compare how far off revenue totals are compared to estimates made to account for the financial impacts related to COVID-19.

On Sept. 14, Harmer and Smith are expected to provide an update on newly released state revenue estimates and determine how the town will offset the loss of revenues.

The recommended budget for fiscal year 2021 shows the town’s total revenue at $16,383,491. Compared to the previous fiscal year, the recommended budget shows a total loss of $415,422. It includes a decrease in assessed taxable property values resulting in a loss of tax revenue of $146,148 and estimates non-ad Valorem revenue loss of $269,274.

The town’s property tax revenue in Sarasota County is slightly lower because of slightly lower condominium values, Harmer said.

The proposed budget shows the town collecting about $12.4 million in property taxes in this upcoming fiscal year. It’s $146,148 less than the amended budget for fiscal year 2020. About 75% of the town's general fund comes from property taxes.

Town commissioners voted 7-0 in June to set the town’s maximum millage rate at 2.1144, which has gone unchanged since the 2017 budget.

Longboat Key is projected to spend $17,353,431 in the upcoming fiscal year, which runs from Oct. 1, 2020, through Sept. 30, 2021.

Lighting rods

In July, commissioners voted unanimously to move forward with allowing rooftop lightning rods on homes to be exempt from the town’s existing height regulations so long as they fulfill certain requirements.

Commissioners asked staff to rewrite a measure, which will allow for a 1-foot exception to lightning rods higher than a home’s maximum height of 30 feet. The rewritten ordinance will also allow larger properties to seek consideration of a special exception for lightning rods up to 6 feet.

A lightning rod is pictured on top of a home on Halyard Lane in the Country Club Shores IV North neighborhood.
A lightning rod is pictured on top of a home on Halyard Lane in the Country Club Shores IV North neighborhood.

The proposal seeks to amend the town’s zoning code, which does not list lightning rods as allowable items that exceed a home’s maximum height of 30 feet.

Anyone in the town with an existing lightning rod in place that does not fulfill the town’s pending regulations would be grandfathered in if the new rule is passed.

Several people have spoken publicly at commission meetings and sent commissioners emails in opposition to the proposed lightning-rod height exception. Some residents are concerned with how a neighbor’s lighting-rod protection system could impact the value of their homes.

Resident-permit parking 

For years, Longboaters have pushed for a resident-only parking program in the Longbeach Village neighborhood.

Town staffers have developed an ordinance for commissioners to discuss this month that would establish such a program.

Public street parking on Broadway in the Longbeach Village neighborhood has been a point of contention for years.
Public street parking on Broadway in the Longbeach Village neighborhood has been a point of contention for years.

The town commission is scheduled to discuss the plan at a Sept. 29 workshop meeting.

Based on commissioners’ direction at the workshop, Harmer said the ordinance will be scheduled for a first reading and then a final public hearing at two regular town commission meetings.


Proposed parking fine increase

Harmer told the Longboat Observer that town commissioners would consider a proposal in September to increase parking citations from $30 to $75.

The fine is much cheaper than many nearby beaches.

Many Longboaters have acknowledged how many times beachgoers and restaurant patrons flout parking rules because of the low $30 fine.

Police Chief Pete Cumming said the current fine is “way out of date.”

Planning and Zoning Board member

At some point, the town commission must appoint a seventh member to the Planning and Zoning Board.

The commission is considering eight candidates to fill the position: Christopher Carman, Gary Coffin, Gary Ehlers, Aaron Kleiner, Maryl Levine, Margaret Nuzzo, Sheldon Jay Plager and Jack Wilson.

Part of the reason the commission has not nominated a seventh member to the P&Z Board is because of the desire to host an in-person event to meet the candidates. However, commissioners have been unable to hold such an event because of concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In April, commissioners reappointed David Green to remain on the P&Z Board. The seventh seat on the board exists because At-Large Commissioner BJ Bishop was elected to the town commission in March.

The group last met in May and is scheduled to meet Sept. 15.

New police chief

Though town commissioners don't have a vote on hiring Kelli Smith, a veteran law enforcement commander now serving as chief of the Northern Arizona University police force in Flagstaff, they do plan to give Chief Pete Cumming a sendoff at their Sept. 29 workshop. 

Cumming, who is nearing his 40th anniversary in blue, announced early this year he was retiring at the end of September, triggering a nationwide job search that attracted 60 candidates, including at least two internal. 

Smith has been in law enforcement for nearly 30 years, and has roots in Florida. She was a commander of the University of Central Florida's police force, an organization with more sworn officers (80) than many medium sized cities. 



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