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Staff proposes $2.4 billion budget for Manatee County in 2025

Roads, parks and the Lakewood Ranch Library remain priorities in East County.

David Sessions, CEO of Willis Smith Construction, talks with former county commissioner Vanessa Baugh on the second floor back in May 2023 when the focus was still on finishing the first floor.
David Sessions, CEO of Willis Smith Construction, talks with former county commissioner Vanessa Baugh on the second floor back in May 2023 when the focus was still on finishing the first floor.
Photo by Lesley Dwyer
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When the Lakewood Ranch Library celebrated a grand opening in January, there was only one thing missing — a finished second floor. 

A $6,919,000 line item in Manatee County’s FY2025 budget says that’s set to change.

The overall Manatee County recommended budget for FY2025 is $2,379,295,263.

Staff members presented their recommendations to commissioners in a series of special work sessions held from June 12 through June 19. The budget won’t be finalized and adopted until September.

"What we've got to do now is balance it," Commissioner Ray Turner said of the budgeting process. "What cuts do we have to make? We have to prioritize a little bit." 

This is the staff-recommended budget for Manatee County's 2025 fiscal year.
Courtesy image

Chief Financial Officer Sheila McLean said Manatee County is one of the few counties that uses a levels-of-services budget structure over a line-item budget. 

The budget takes nine months to prepare, and staff still budgets down to the line item. The levels-of-services structure is an added step that divides the request amount into three levels — base, continuation and desired. Base is the bare minimum cost to run a program. Continuation is the cost to maintain the existing services beyond the base, and desired are new requests.

“It’s a better approach to explain to the commissioners and the citizens the programs that are being recommended and approved for funding, rather than talking about accounts,” McLean said. “It is a much more complicated budget process, but it helps paint a better picture.” 

To further fill out the picture, the $2,321,568,098 FY2025-2029 Capital Improvement Plan was presented along with the budget. 

While a $9 million EMS station near Interstate 75 and University Parkway is on the horizon for FY2028 in the 5-year CIP, roads, parks and the Lakewood Ranch Library remain priorities in East County for FY2025.

The Lakewood Ranch Library

Plans for the library are not final until commissioners vote on them, but the staff has started the process by offering ideas and an estimated cost. 

Staff is recommending $6,919,000 be used in FY2025 to fully fund and start construction on the second floor in May. Construction is expected to take just under one year. 

Once complete, staff suggested the extra space be used by two departments: Library Services and Community & Veterans Services.

The library would use the space to expand its collection of materials and provide additional study rooms and meeting spaces. Additional library staff would include one librarian and three library assistants.

Library Services Manager Tammy Parrott told commissioners in January that libraries are starting to be used as multi-use buildings. In some cases, that includes residential units.

Manatee County is moving toward a multi-use model by including county services in its new and remodeled library locations. Staff said the second floor can accommodate three probation officers and two Veterans Services counselors on a rotating basis. 

Commissioner Ray Turner said it's too early to say what will actually end up on the second floor because commissioners need to have a discussion first. Veterans Services having a place upstairs was discussed, but he hadn't heard about probation possibly having a spot, too.

"To have a satellite office for Veterans Services — on the east side, we don't have that right now," Turner said. "It's kind of a little bit underserved compared with the way it should be."


Out of 17 new CIP projects that the Transportation department submitted for review, 11 are in East County, five have starting dates in FY2025 and four are improvements to Lakewood Ranch Boulevard.

Repaving Lakewood Ranch Boulevard from State Road 70 to State Road 64 isn’t on the schedule until the fall of 2027. However, three intersections on Lakewood Ranch Boulevard are poised for an update in 2025 — Wood Fern Trail, Portal Crossing and Gateway Drive. 

Upgrades include traffic signals, traffic cameras, pedestrian crossings and turn lane improvements. Adjustments to the median have to be made at Portal Crossing only. The design process is slated to begin in October 2024 with construction starting in October 2025 and an anticipated completion date of December 2026. 

In total, the Transportation department added $68,941,010 worth of projects to the CIP, $2,667,328 of which was requested for FY2025. 


The total recommended budget for Sports and Leisure Services is $6,756,042. The base is $4,564,454. The continuation is $2,038,839, and the desired is $152,749. 

The parks are growing with the population in East Manatee County, so the desired $152,749 budget request would establish East County as its own division and hire a recreation division manager.

“It’s important for us to add the support and oversight for creative scheduling and increased customer service to our residents,” Sports and Leisure Director Molly White said. 

An aerial rendering of John H. Marble Park when it reopens after renovations.
Courtesy image

John H. Marble Park is an ongoing project that falls under the continuation category of the budget. The park was closed in May 2023 for $18,998,877 worth of renovations and is expected to open by the end of this year or early 2025 with a new gymnasium and splash pad. 

The budgeted cost to open and operate the park is $890,960. That includes six full-time employees and two part-time employees. 

Sports and Leisure is also adding a half-ton truck and trailer to their fleet. The $84,084 mobile recreation center will be used for pop-up programming at parks throughout the county.

White said the truck will target “passive parks” that don’t normally have programming. The truck can haul gear for games like soccer and cornhole or fitness equipment for an exercise class.

“We’re meeting kids and families where they are,” White said.



Lesley Dwyer

Lesley Dwyer is a staff writer for East County and a graduate of the University of South Florida. After earning a bachelor’s degree in professional and technical writing, she freelanced for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Lesley has lived in the Sarasota area for over 25 years.

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