One More Year Of CRA Revenue?

Government

BY JACOB OGLES SRQ DAILY FRESHLY SQUEEZED CONTENT EVERY MORNING TUESDAY SEP 6, 2016

A 30-year-old redevelopment agreement between the City of Sarasota and Sarasota County will sunset this year, but not before one more disagreement between the governments gets settled. City officials believe the county must make one 30th and final payment to the Community Redevelopment Agency. But county officials say they have made their final payment.

The CRA district was created by city and county officials in 1986, but according to the city finance department, the first payment into the related redevelopment trust funding to finance projects in the district was not made until the following budget year. “It is the city's understanding that, in furtherance of this accord and in the absence of an extension of the downtown community redevelopment area beyond the year 2016, the county's annual contributions would cease after thirty annual payments had been made,” writes Mayor Willie Shaw in a letter to the county this spring.

But county officials say it has long been understood that the $4.3-million payment for Fiscal Year 2016, made last November, would be the last contribution to the district. It’s that date that has loomed over discussions in joint meetings and other interactions about the CRA for years, according to County Commission Chairman Alan Maio. The termination date was memorialized in the Fiscal Year 2016 budget resolution, an action treated by city and county officials alike as the end of discussions on continuing the CRA past its expiration. “The county is proud to have been a part of the very successful Downtown CRA,” Maio writes in a letter to the city.

“We believe it has exceedingly accomplished the goals and objectives envisioned by both commissions at the time of its inception, and that it is a testament to what can be accomplished via a mutual accord.” Maio notes that over the 30 years after the creation of CRA, some $65.7 million was paid by the county into the CRA redevelopment trust. How that money has been used has always been at the discretion of Sarasota City Commissioners, who act as the governing board for the CRA.

City Manager Tom Barwin, however, says the work of the CRA is far from done. The city still has projects that need funding for easing downtown traffic congestion, funding economic redevelopment in Newtown and launching the Bayfront 20:20 initiative. “The North Sarasota and Newtown area is really making great progress and we want to see that momentum continue,” Barwin says. “It’s a great time to continue economic progress.” Barwin also notes that the county has stopped funding a number of efforts in the city, including contributing to costs at the Robert L. Taylor Community Complex, and declined to participate in grant funding requested by the city. “Sarasota is what I call a major donor city in what it contributes in tourist and sales tax to the county and state,” Barwin says. “For the visionaries who created the CRA, when it was conceived of and implemented, it was a way to bring some equity back to the scene.”

City Commissioners are expected to discuss the issue at a regular meeting today. The meeting starts at 2:30pm.

Picture: Map of Sarasota CRA.

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