- January 10, 2017
Although their suggestions would be included with the rest of Sarasota County, members of the Siesta Key Association recently forwarded their ideas for community uses of the voter-decided 1% sales surtax to the County Commission.
The commission held a penny surtax workshop Tuesday afternoon at which two Siesta-specific ideas were discussed. According to Bob Luckner of SKA, six ideas were submitted to the county, and more will be provided before March 29’s vote on placing the surtax on the November ballot.
If approved by voters, the sales tax would be renewed for its fourth 15-year run, through 2039. Tourists and nonresidents typically pay about a fifth of the sales tax total in Sarasota County, the county said. Although individual projects are not on the ballot, they must first be approved for surtax funding. Voters decide on either renewal of the tax or cancellation.
“We asked last month that you send us your ideas,” Bob Luckner said during February’s SKA meeting. “Limited to that, though, we have sent a preliminary list with half a dozen projects we found to be high priority.”
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The commission first discussed the Key’s mini-reef project and the possibility of funding similar efforts to revitalize the coastal environment. Mini-reef projects have increased on the Key, and county funding could alleviate organizational and funding concerns that could arise.
Siesta residents also suggested a tracking system that could display on a phone app or an electronic sign the real-time availability of beach parking.
“The parking information system would have sensors in each individual parking space,” Luckner said. “There would be signs and an app that shows whether there’s parking available at the beaches. The project would cost about $1 million.”
If voters renew the penny surtax, an estimated $900 million would be allotted to Sarasota County over its 15-year run. Three-quarters of the money would be divided by population between the county and the cities. The school board is entitled to 25% of the total.
While SKA members expressed that they want their projects included in the proposed budget, it is possible that unallocated funds could be used for Key-specific projects.
“We were a bit distracted last fall with things like hotels, and they didn’t hold any meetings out here anyways,” Luckner said. “But now we’re getting engaged.”
Among the other high-priority projects that made SKA’s list included crosswalk improvements on Midnight Pass and Beach Road, intersection improvements at Midnight Road and Stickney Point, and new traffic signals.
Many of the 48 ideas submitted were traffic, transportation or infrastructure related. New beach bathrooms also made the list.
“We asked about bike lanes, improvements on Midnight Pass and modifications to some of the sidewalks,” Luckner said. “But none of those are defined right now. You just kind of get in the queue and see what happens.”
Luckner also announced that SKA will still be accepting new project ideas ahead of the commission meeting in March.