Vibrant Cities - A Boon to Our Region

City Government

BY TOM BARWIN SRQ DAILY SATURDAY PERSPECTIVES EDITION SATURDAY JUL 22, 2017

For those who think about preserving local agriculture, forests and open space while enjoying the benefits of a strong economy and a wide variety of cultural attractions and events, the positive role our cities play quickly comes into focus.

Strong cities generally provide the economic, employment, entertainment, healthcare and higher education foundation necessary for a region and its residents to flourish. 

With higher residential and business densities, well-planned and well-managed cities provide the region with a strong tax base to pay for governmental services and play an equally critical role in minimizing sprawl for all who value nature and may prefer to live in more rural areas. 

The City of Sarasota is a good example of what I am talking about.

For example, the City of Sarasota makes up only 3 percent of all the land in the County.  However, when it comes to the tax base, the City of Sarasota delivers about 17.5 percent of the county tax base, which greatly benefits each regional taxing authority. In dollar terms, the city tax base generates an estimated extra $5 million in property taxes to the county coffers each year.

Another example of the power of strong cities is the tourist tax. Again, although just 3 percent of the land and 13.5 percent of the residents, over $6 million, or 30 percent of this $20-million countywide revenue source, was raised in the City of Sarasota last year. Here again the strength of the City tax base amounts to an extra $3.3 million annually (when averaged against population) to fund regional activities and marketing.

The sales tax information repeats the same story. Of the $456 million raised in sales taxes from within the county last year, 25 percent of it, well over $100 million of the total was raised from commerce within the city. Unfortunately, only a small portion is returned to local government by the state. What is returned is redistributed back to local governments based on a formula that is primarily based on population. Many local governments get back more shared sales tax revenues from the pooled funds than they raise, thanks to vibrant cities like Sarasota.

This data helps demonstrate the key roles strong cities play in helping finance basic governmental operations throughout the county.

Smart growth and vibrant cities are a boon to all. It is why policy makers at all levels of government should partner and collaborate to support and invest in strong and vibrant cities.  

If business or economic terminology were applied to Sarasota we would be called a cash cow to the greater region. Good economics, good business, good planning all require that policy makers both understand this and not take it for granted.

Sarasota’s impressive contributions to the region are the result of the economic investments and tax base building tools and strategies policy makers have embraced for the past 30 years. Those investments have been paying great dividends to the region for years, but like any good, sustainable business we must never rest on our laurels, or take a good product for granted.

Thank you for taking the time to read this month’s column. As always, your comments on this or any subject are welcome to thomas.barwin@sarasotaFL.gov

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