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SRQ DAILY Jun 13, 2015

Saturday Perspectives Edition

Saturday Perspectives Edition

"The bottom line for the Sarasota County taxpayer is that, on average, in 2014 he or she was paying a lower tax rate on their significantly more valuable property than was the case in 1994."

- Kevin Cooper. The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce

[The Report]  Amendment to Appeal For Clemency
Susan Nilon, susan.nilon@gmail.com

Florida is one of only three states with a lifetime ban on voting if you are convicted of a felony.  Any felony.  Not just rapists and murders, but people with felonies because they purchased cannabis, trespassed on posted commercial horticulture property, manufactured or delivered drug paraphernalia, sold used goods as new, failed to obtain workers’ compensation coverage, a tenant who removes property upon which lien has accrued with the value of more than $50, and even someone who has failed to maintain or deliver pedigree papers have to join the 1.6 million Floridians who cannot vote. The list goes on. 

This past April, a Florida eighth-grader was arrested on cybercrime charges after he gained unauthorized access to his teacher’s computer and changed the desktop image to a photo of two men kissing. The password was his teacher’s last name. He accessed no other information on the computer. But an offense against a computer system and unauthorized access is a felony. If he is found guilty, he will be listed as a felon and lose his civil rights as a citizen of the United States. 

On March 9, 2011, Gov. Rick Scott changed the law where the clemency board automatically restored the rights of all nonviolent offenders who served their time. That law created a 5- to 7-year waiting period before an application can be sent to the clemency board.  Then there is a 6-year application processing time, which makes the total waiting period 11 to 13 years. (A single speeding ticket during that time can disqualify the applicant from clemency.) 

The Clemency Board, which consists of four people: Gov. Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Adam H. Putnam, and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, meet four times a year for eight hours. During the four years of the previous administration, Gov. Charlie Crist granted clemency to a total of 155,315 non-violent offenders.  During the first four years of Governor Scott’s administration, clemency was granted to 1,534 non-violent felons. As of December 2014, there are 20,005 pending applications. And the last data reported shows that number of people who are granted clemency will fall to under a hundred this year. 

Data from the clemency board’s own investigative arm show that one in three people released by the Department of Corrections ends up committing a new crime. However, “when civil rights are restored, the number drops to one in nine.” The data also shows that an individual has less than 1 percent chance of having his or her rights restored. 

There is a petition being circulated by Floridians For A Fair Democracy asking for a constitutional amendment to be put on the ballot in 2016 that will grant non-violent offenders automatic restoration of voting rights. The ballot summary reads: “This amendment restores the voting rights of Floridians with felony convictions after they complete all terms of their sentence including parole or probation. The amendment would not apply to those convicted of murder or sexual offenses, who would continue to be permanently barred from voting unless the Governor and Cabinet vote to restore their voting rights on a case by case basis.” The ACLU of Florida and the Unitarian Universalists have also joined forces, along with Desmond Meade, president of Restore Rights Restoration Coalition. Meade, who finished law school but cannot take the bar because of his felony conviction, is one of the many examples of why clemency needs to be granted to non-violent offends and a second chance needs to be given.  

SRQ Daily Columnist Susan Nilon is the president of Florida Talk Radio and owner of WSRQ Radio. She hosts The Nilon Report on WSRQ Sarasota 1220AM/106.9FM weekdays 4pm-6pm. Email her at susan@sarasotatalkradio.com.

Restore Rights Restoration Coalition

[Chamber]  Stronger Tax Base Lightens Load
Kevin Cooper, Kcooper@sarasotachamber.com

The extent to which a local government is able to collect revenue is oftentimes referred to as its fiscal capacity.  The fiscal capacity of a community is important in that it significantly impacts the property tax rate, or fiscal effort, the community must levy in order to provide necessary programs and services.  In a general sense, the more capacity (i.e. value) a community has, the less effort (i.e. tax rate) it must levy in order to fund those programs and services. 

It’s not uncommon for fiscal capacity to be measured by a community’s per capita taxable value.  Per capita taxable value is as simple as it sounds: it looks at the total taxable value in a community and then divides it by the number of people in that community. 

The ideal situation is one where a community’s value grows at a faster pace than the cost to provide programs and services.  This is similar to the goal of many households where individuals wish to see their ability to earn money outpace their need to spend it.  Otherwise, stress is added to the system. In a household, that might mean a second job or taking on more debt. In a community, it typically means less or degrading programs and services or a higher tax rate.

In 1994, the per capita taxable value in Sarasota County was $54,387.

Between the years of 1994 and 2014, the total taxable value in the County grew significantly.  During that same time period the County’s population also grew, but at a much slower pace.  As a result, by 2014, the per capita taxable value in Sarasota County had grown to $112,255.  In 20 years, the County’s fiscal capacity more than doubled. 

In 1994, the property tax rate was 4.0917 (i.e., roughly $4.01 per $1,000 of taxable value).  By 2014, that rate dropped to 3.3912.  In twenty years, the County’s property tax fiscal effort was lessened by over 17 percent.

Perhaps surprisingly, from 1994 to 2014, the countywide per capita property tax in Sarasota outpaced inflation by just 7 percent.  The per capita taxable value, however, outpaced inflation by almost 30 percent. The bottom line for the Sarasota County taxpayer is that, on average, in 2014 he or she was paying a lower tax rate on their significantly more valuable property than was the case in 1994.

One factor used by the Florida Legislature to identify regions experiencing fiscal hardship are those areas where the “per capita taxable value is less than the statewide average for the current fiscal year.”  Last year, Sarasota County’s per capita taxable value was over 60 percent higher than the statewide average and home to the sixth highest per capita taxable value in the state of Florida. 

There are numerous opinions on Sarasota County’s growth and fiscal responsibility. The public should be aware that, over the past 20 years, the numbers indicate the community has seen its ability to earn money far outpace the additional amount being spent. In fact, if the tax rate were the same in 2014 as it was in 1994, taxpayers would have been on the hook for an additional $30 million. 

SRQ Daily Columnist Kevin Cooper is the vice president for Public Policy and Sarasota Tomorrow Initiatives for The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce

[Real Estate]  Seller's Market in Sarasota
Jaime Carrion

The Sarasota real estate market turned into a very strong seller's market in May 2015. The inventory of Sarasota homes for sale decreased 22 percent to 2,169 while the inventory of Sarasota condos decreased 16 percent to 1,095. Consequently, the months of inventories of homes and condos decreased to 2.9 months and to 2.8 months respectively. With 6 months of inventory generally regarded as equilibrium, the Sarasota real estate market is overwhelmingly favoring sellers at this time.

This scarcity of inventory amid strong sales has pushed sale prices considerably higher. The median sale price of homes rose 18 percent to $230,000 while the median price of condos rose 21 percent to $215,000 in May 2015.

Buyers who have been sitting on the fence and have delayed their buying decision for a year will now face a market where the median price has increased about 20 percent. Fence sitting and delaying a purchasing decision can be very expensive.

It's always wise to remember the No. 1 Rule in Real Estate: Don't wait to buy real estate… Buy real estate and wait. 

Jaime Carrion is a Realtor with Michael Saunders and Company

[TODAY]  Splash into Saturdays with Selby

Get ready for Splashin’ Selby Saturdays starting today!  Every Saturday from June 13 to August 1, kids of all ages can enjoy the water activities and games happening from 11:30am to 3:00pm. The Great Lawn becomes a fun zone with water spray sprinklers and slip and slides.  Fishing games, water noodle hockey, and water basketball provide more outdoor fun along with scavenger hunts, a shark tooth hunt and frog games. Enjoy the shade of the banyan trees and explore the Ann Goldstein Children’s Rainforest Garden with its beautiful waterfall and lagoon for a perfect family Saturday. Children should wear a swimsuit, apply sunscreen and bring a towel.  Moms and dads, don’t forget your cameras! Splashin’ Selby Saturdays is free to Members. Regular admission applies to visitors. 

Selby Gardens

[SOON]  Register for Fuzion Summer Intensive

Get ready to move this summer with Fuzión and their special guest artists in sunny Sarasota for a weeklong dance intensive, unlike any other! Come experience Countertechnique with Kira Blazek, Therapeutic Ballet with Rachael Inman, Urban Contemporary technique with Terrrence Henderson, Pilates with Fuzión’s Artistic Director Leymis Bolaños Wilmott, and evening rehearsals with selected emerging choreographers from around the country. The deadline to register is June 15 so don’t hesitate to grab this chance while you can! 

Fusion Dance Artists

[SOON]  Breakfast Buzz

We all know some of the best connections are made in the morning when people are fresh and ready to start their day. Head to Breakfast Buzz to meet fellow Sarasota Chamber members, enjoy a wonderful buffet and get the inside scoop on community topics. This month features Dr. Lori White, School Board of Sarasota County, to present "The Sarasota County School District – Our Accomplishments and Challenges." $15 members, $20 future members. Seating is limited, so make sure to RSVP soon to join the Sarasota Chamber of Commerce on June 24 from 7:45-9am at Der Dutchman.  

The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce

[SCOOP]  Backpacks to Combat Hunger

All Faiths Food Bank gave more than 100 backpacks of kid-friendly food to the students at Newtown Estates Summer Camp at the North Sarasota Library. The event introduced the Food Bank’s new partnership with the Sarasota County Library System that will help provide food for children during the summer when they face hunger more than any other time of the year. In expansion of All Faiths’ summer BackPack Kids program, libraries throughout Sarasota County will give bags of food to children 18 and under all summer long. 

All Faiths Food Bank

[SCOOP]  Make a Feline Friend

In honor of June being National Adopt-a-Shelter-Cat month, the Humane Society of Sarasota County (HSSC) has decided to celebrate by lowering its adoption fees for its senior and long-term resident cats. For the whole month, adoption fees for senior cats are only $10 and only $20 for long-term shelter residents. Adoption fees include a comprehensive medical exam, vaccinations, spay or neutering, deworming, and micro-chipping. “Every cat deserves love, it just takes some longer than others to find it and those are the cats we want to shine the spotlight on during National Adopt a Shelter Cat month,” said Christine Benson, Executive Director of HSSC.  

Humane Society of Sarasota County

[SCOOP]  Fighting Hunger Fuels Futures

The Sarasota Family YMCA Frank Berlin, Sr. Branch and Evalyn Sadlier Jones Branch will be offering a Summer Food Program that provides nutritious meals and snacks, paired with fun learning activities to keep children healthy, active and well- nourished all summer long. “This may seem hard to believe, but one in five children in the U.S. lives in a household that does not have enough food. It’s important to us at the Sarasota YMCA to join the fight against hunger,” said Tracy Spalsbury, marketing director for the Sarasota YMCA. The Y is dedicated to ensuring that kids in our communities have on-going access to nutrition all year long. When kids eat nutritiously, they’re more likely to reach their full potential. Also, good nutrition is essential for academic success. The branches will be serving breakfast at 8am and lunch at 12pm for all children under 18 beginning Monday, June 8, 2015. The food program is free.  

Sarasota YMCA

[SCOOP]  Improving Financial Literacy

Thanks to a generous $10,000 grant from SunTrust Bank, Goodwill Manasota has brought its internally established financial literacy program to the community at large.  On Wednesday June 10, Goodwill’s financial literacy educator Nancy Crawford presented the “Budgeting and Financial Wellness Workshop” at the Bradenton Housing Authority. Crawford covered topics such as budgeting skills, savings needs, and the use of credit. The financial literacy program is a part of Goodwill’s “Good Neighbor” Program, which is designed to meet the specific needs of the community. “Employment is just the first step in the long road to self-sufficiency. If someone has never learned how to budget or been taught financial literacy, the chances for self-sufficiency are greatly reduced,” said Bob Rosinsky, president & CEO of Goodwill Manasota.  

Goodwill Manasota

[SOON]  Promotions with Google AdWords

Interested in learning how to use Google AdWords to measure and maximize Pay-Per-Click (PPC) campaign results for your business? The Central West Coast Chapter of the Florida Public Relations Association (CWC-FPRA) is holding a Google AdWords workshop so you can learn how. From 11:30am-1pm on June 17 at The Francis, attendees will learn the basics of Google AdWords from CWC-FPRA VP of Membership Emmalee Legler. Ms. Legler has professional experience with Google AdWords, and she has empowered businesses by increasing website visits, converting clicks into sales, and driving foot traffic to brick-and-mortar retail locations. This event is open to the public. Business owners and marketing and PR professionals are encouraged to attend.  

Central West Coast Chapter of the Florida Public Relations Association

SRQ Media Group

SRQ DAILY is produced by SRQ | The Magazine. Note: The views and opinions expressed in the Saturday Perspectives Edition and in the Letters department of SRQ DAILY are those of the author(s) and do not imply endorsement by SRQ Media. Senior Editor Jacob Ogles edits the Saturday Perspective Edition, Letters and Guest Contributor columns.In the CocoTele department, SRQ DAILY is providing excerpts from news releases as a public service. Reference to any specific product or entity does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by SRQ DAILY. The views expressed by individuals are their own and their appearance in this section does not imply an endorsement of them or any entity they represent. For rates on SRQ DAILY banner advertising and sponsored content opportunities, please contact Ashley Ryan Cannon at 941-365-7702 x211 or via email

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