- January 18, 2012
Longboat Key leaders have determined how they intend to use millions of dollars in surtax money collected from retail sales around Sarasota County, provided voters approve the countywide measure in November.
The town is due to receive an estimated $15.13 million over 15 years from the county’s 1% sales tax, on top of the standard 6% rate. Since November 2021, Sarasota County has added $2 million to the town’s estimated surtax total, according to Longboat Key Finance Director Sue Smith.
The Longboat Key Town Commission voted 6-1 to send its proposed projects list to the Sarasota County Commission, which is set to discuss each municipality’s proposal. District 1 Commissioner Sherry Dominick cast the dissenting vote.
“I continue to have some significant reservations about the allocations here,” Dominick said.
Dominick said she requested more information and wanted data on how the town is dealing with sea-level rise, flooding and drainage issues.
“I would prefer seeing a significantly higher allocation for that type of thing, and perhaps for canal dredging,” Dominick said.
The town is due to pay a combined total of $168,749 for drainage assessments in the Sleepy Lagoon and Buttonwood Harbour neighborhoods. The eight-month Sleepy Lagoon assessment is due to cost about $90,016 and the six-month Buttonwood Harbour assessment is due to cost about $78,733.
Longbeach Village has already conducted two studies done, according to Public Works Director Isaac Brownman.
Plus, the town is due to receive about $3.65 million in COVID-19 relief funds provided by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA). Town Commissioners have said they would like to apply the ARPA funding toward the sewer line that runs under Sarasota Bay to a mainland treatment plant, and sea-level rise and stormwater management.
Smith explained the eligible uses of the infrastructure surtax.
“We’ve gone over these before, but it’s for mostly local community improvements,” Smith said. “Parks, roads, sidewalks, libraries. It must be capital in nature with at least a five-year useable life.”
The town could also use the money to acquire land for public recreation, conservation or protection of natural resources. Other eligible uses include public safety vehicles and equipment and to finance the closure of government-owned landfills.
If the Sarasota County surtax gets approved, the town can use its funding on the Sarasota County side of Longboat Key, but not the Manatee County side.
Smith said Manatee’s surtax goes from 2017-2032.
In the future, Vice Mayor Mike Haycock said he’d like the town to set aside funding to upgrade the town’s sidewalks.
“When you look at the usage of all the facilities that we have, the No. 1 usage, I believe, is our sidewalks,” Haycock said. “I mean, if you go up and down Longboat Key, you’ll see hundreds of people out on the sidewalks, especially in the morning.”
Haycock said he understood Gulf of Mexico Drive, also known as State Road 789, was ultimately the responsibility of the Florida Department of Transportation.
“At some point in time, I really want to get to the point where we’re looking at what are we going to do to upgrade our sidewalks?” Haycock said.
Town Manager Tom Harmer mentioned the ongoing Complete Streets Corridor Study for GMD.
“Separately from that, we’ve been working with the FDOT to tell them that we think the sidewalk conditions now are not good at all, and they really need to do something sooner rather than later,” Harmer said.
Dominick also said she had requested information on how the town plans to replace its public safety vehicles with specific information about mileage and usage.
“Since we’re only a 12-mile island, and we’re driving up and down the island and maybe to the hospital, I have some real questions in my mind about that,” Dominick said. “I realize this is a 15-year plan, so I have some reservations about this, but I’m probably in the minority.”
Harmer said that the town is projecting out the vehicles that will need replacement in the coming years. Smith explained the process the town undergoes to determine whether vehicles need replacement.
“Every year, we look at our replacement schedule as part of the budget process and the five-year capital plan,” Smith said. “If a vehicle doesn’t really necessarily need to be replaced, it will get pushed out a couple more years.”
The county uses a population-based formula to determine how to allocate surtax funding. It’s the County Commission’s responsibility to decide to put the measure, estimated in value at $2 billion between 2024 and 2039, on the ballot for November’s general election.
Sarasota County voters participating in the Nov. 8 general election will decide whether to approve the surtax for the fourth time.
Earlier this month, Harmer called the surtax funding “a very important part” of the town’s budget process. He said the town would have to go back and plan other ways to fund its capital projects if the surtax doesn’t get approved.