Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

About time they give back

Sarasota County officials say they’ll use county money to build a public library on Longboat. They also should fund a community center.

  • Longboat Key
  • Opinion
  • Share

Cynics that we are, let’s try looking on the bright side for a change. 

It was surprising to a degree last week to read that the Sarasota County Commission is committing $1 million to fund the design of a new county-owned library on Longboat Key and that Manatee County School officials are entertaining the idea of funding an adult education center in one of the Whitney Plaza buildings.

It was surprising and surprisingly pleasant to read because rare is the occasion when commissioners and top administrators in Sarasota and Manatee counties throw a financial bread crumb to Longboat Key.

We often think they would be much more gracious and grateful considering the millions and millions and millions of dollars Longboat Key taxpayers send across the bay each year — with little tangible results in return.

As the table shows, in the next fiscal year, given the valuation of Longboat Key property, Longboaters will send $17 million and $14 million, respectively, to Sarasota and Manatee counties — $31,650,380 altogether.

While that is A LOT of money, it actually pales in comparison to the $46,295,303 Longboaters pay in property taxes for the Sarasota and Manatee school districts. Of that, the Sarasota County portion of Longboat contributes $31,501,980 in school taxes; the Manatee portion of Longboat contributes $14,793,523. 

Being the generous people they are, Longboaters on the whole haven’t demanded or squawked much to county elected officials about all the money they contribute to the counties and what little they see in return.

But it’s about time. 

As much as the town’s privately operated library has served Longboat well for 66 years (proving that a library can operate without taxpayer support), and as much as that library building has a quaint, small-town look from a simpler time, an upgrade would be welcome. That property has been underutilized too long.

Indeed, it’s the perfect site for a combined library and community center-type building. 

Longboaters have talked for nearly 30 years about building a community center — a gathering place for town events and communitywide meetings. The pews at Temple Beth Israel should not be that place, as they have before. And most long-time Longboat residents know the old cottage at Bayfront Park is completely inadequate and has outlived its useful life by 30 years and then some.

So Longboaters, no doubt, gladly will welcome Sarasota County using what can be considered Longboat Key property owners’ tax dollars to build a new public library on the Key. 

Well and good — except for one thing. 

From last week’s Longboat Observer: “Sarasota County will be financially responsible for the new library. But the town is exploring the possibility of adding additional community space to the design. This part of the project would need to be paid for by the town, (Longboat Key Town Manager Howard) Tipton said.”

What? No way.

If the city of Sarasota and the Bay Park Conservancy can secure what likely will be more than $100 million in tax-increment financing from Sarasota County to fund the development of the Bay Park, given the millions Sarasota and Manatee counties receive from Longboat Key, surely there is a path to financing a measly library-community center without tapping Longboat Key taxpayers for even more than they’re already paying.

Maybe it’s time Longboat Key commissioners pull back some from being so generous to the two counties and let the county commissioners (and school boards) know there needs to be a much better return on Longboaters’ investments in the counties.



Matt Walsh

Matt Walsh is the CEO and founder of Observer Media Group.

Latest News