What We Should Do Became What We Did Do

The CRA

BY KEVIN COOPER SRQ DAILY SATURDAY PERSPECTIVES EDITION SATURDAY JUN 28, 2014

Sarasota residents and visitors enjoy the Bayfront Park, they enjoy Five Points Park, they enjoy being able to park in the Palm Avenue Garage, they enjoy dining and shopping at Whole Foods, and they enjoy happy hour at Louies Modern. Another thing that these things have in common, aside from their appeal to those who live, work and travel here, is the Community Redevelopment Area. Without the CRA, these landmarks may very well not exist or would be drastically different than they are today.

CRAs are targeted areas where percentages of both City and County property taxes collected within the area are set aside rather than placed in the respective general funds. These dollars are then reinvested in vital community redevelopment projects within the boundaries of those areas.

It’s important to note these percentages are based on increases in property values, so it acts like an incentive program. When the CRA funds projects that increase property values, the CRAs pool of funding increases. The benefit for local governments and residents is that jobs and additional tax revenue are created.

Since its inception in 1986, the CRA has funded over $78 million in projects, partnerships, and services, which include the aforementioned locations along with many others. If property values continue to increase similar to how they have in the past, the CRA would likely be able to strategically reinvest more than $500 million over its next thirty year period—if it still exists.

The future of greater Sarasota will be significantly impacted by whether or not the City and County agree to extend the life of the CRA, which is scheduled to sunset in 2016.

Amidst all of the headline issues existing today (e.g., homeless services, local elections, Sarasota 2050, etc…), it is perhaps the CRA that is most critical. Unfortunately, it remains perhaps the most obscure and most quiet. I encourage the citizens of the City of Sarasota as well as those in rest of the County to review and appreciate all that the CRA has done for this community over its nearly 30-year existence.

Kevin Cooper is the vice president for The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce

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