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SRQ DAILY Nov 18, 2017

"The prioritization on how to spend these dollars is out of whack."

- Christine Robinson, Argus Foundation

[Gulf Coast]  Give in These Uncertain Times? Absolutely!
Mark Pritchett, mpritchett@gulfcoastcf.org

Holiday creep. The ever-earlier commercial start to the year-end holiday season. This year seemed to set a new record when I ran a gauntlet of twinkling trees in the entrance to a home-improvement store more than a week before Halloween.

But at least one important year-end activity could actually benefit from an ever-earlier start: your charitable-gift planning. For a variety of reasons—mostly all good—many people wait until the 12th month (and sometimes even its 11th hour) to finalize their year-end donations. That can lead to rushed decisions amid the holiday bustle and missed opportunities when it comes to tax planning. Next year, think about the period between Halloween and Thanksgiving to focus on your charitable gifts within the context of your overall year-end planning.

Of course, this year the still-uncertain fate of pending tax-reform legislation might have left you even more unsure about when and how much to give. But it shouldn’t stop you. December 31 will be here soon, so let’s concentrate on what we do know.

There are some simple strategies to reduce your tax bill while benefiting causes you care about. And even if you don’t give primarily for the tax benefits, which many donors say they don’t, try looking at it from another angle: Maximizing the tax advantages of your generosity could help you give even more to charity. (As always, a conversation with your tax or financial advisor will lead to the best decisions for you personally.)

Consider giving appreciated assets, such as stocks, bonds, or mutual funds, instead of cash. By donating long-held appreciated stock, for example, you can avoid capital-gains tax and may get a needed deduction for the stock’s full value. The hot market makes this a particularly good time to look at any appreciated assets you have.

If you need a tax deduction for this year, a gift into a donor advised fund can be a win-win for you and your favorite charities. Setting up one is an easy process. You make a single charitable gift to create (or add to) your fund, and you get the deduction this year for that gift. Then, you can recommend grants from your fund to the charities of your choosing, on your own timeline—right away or whenever you’re ready. 

Turning a required distribution from an IRA into a tax-free gift to charity is another option available to many older donors who qualify. Ask your financial or tax professional about the Charitable IRA Rollover, and remember that our Philanthropy team at Gulf Coast can help you with questions about charitable gifts, at year-end or year-round.

As I write this column on deadline, we still don’t know exactly what tax changes will take effect next year. But we can assume it is unlikely that tax rates will go up, and it’s possible that fewer deductions will be available in 2018. So giving generously to charity this year could benefit you, and it will certainly benefit the community causes you believe in. 

Dr. Mark S. Pritchett is president/CEO of Gulf Coast Community Foundation. 

[Argus]  Transportation Funding for Parks?
Christine Robinson, Christine@argusfoundation.org

If you had the opportunity to spend $900,000 worth of money on transportation expansion, how would you spend it?

Would you use it to add more bike lanes on existing roads? Lay down more sidewalks? Would you use it to expand our road grid system? How about extending Lakewood Ranch Boulevard? Or, would you forget daily mobility and instead use it to expand a park?

Most are shocked when they hear the real-life answer to this question, which occurred when the 2018 budget was approved by Sarasota County. Sarasota County has decided a park is the best use of almost a million dollars of transportation money.

The Legacy Trail is a very important project. It is a wonderful amenity that deserves attention and focus to make sure we are prepared for any state and federal funding availability to expand this park both north and south. But a park should not take away funding for important infrastructure. Projects that affect real-life daily mobility should never take a back seat to an amenity.

But that is what has happened.

The 2018 budget has allocations totaling $8 million for the Legacy Trail expansion. Much of the funding comes from Neighborhood Parkland funding and Park Impact fees. This appears to be an appropriate use of that funding. 

But, there is an allocation of $900,000 from mobility fees, fees that are intended to increase your ability to get around. This allocation of mobility fees is made up of $730,000 from the North County Mobility Fee District and $170,000 from the Central County District.

In the news, we recently heard about the lack of county funding available for acquiring the property for the Lakewood Ranch Boulevard extension to Fruitville Road, jeopardizing the project. This is going to be a reliever road to help improve the grid system, and it lies right within the North County Mobility Fee District. That’s right, the same district where $730,000 will be used for a park and not the road.

The prioritization on how to spend these dollars is out of whack.

In the zeal of the county to complete a high commission priority amenity, they have ignored the basic rules of government budgeting: Health, safety, and welfare first, infrastructure second, and amenities last.

The Sarasota County Citizen’s Survey administered annually through the University of South Florida addressed budget prioritization in 2017. The survey participants agree with me. “When asked for their input as to how County officials should allocate budgetary resources, over half of the survey respondents gave 10 (most important) rating to just one category—‘public transportation/traffic congestion’ (54 percent)…” 

The survey was clear about how the public felt about the priorities of parks in comparison, “…fewer respondents identify leisure-related budget items as top priority expenditure items—“parks and preserves” (16 percent)…”

This budget prioritization error needs to be fixed immediately. The Commission should issue instructions to staff to revisit this budget year and examine the budget for prioritization problems like this. 

The Commission is about to enter its annual retreat to set the budget parameters for next year. To avoid these problems this next year they need to go back to basics with county staff. They should be clear in their prioritization of the budget, their unwillingness to have government grow faster than property values, and a general understanding that amenities are nice, but they don’t take priority over infrastructure.

Christine Robinson is executive director of The Argus Foundation. 

[The Detail]  Raising Eyebrows at School District
Cathy Antunes, cathycantunes@gmail.com

The Sarasota County School Board has been in the news recently, with some interesting financial moves and recommendations. The school board’s recent decision to hire (and a few weeks later, fire) a PR firm has raised eyebrows. School board member Eric Robinson recently called for the elimination of salaries for school board members. On the horizon is the 2018 school board race, and the potential for dark money to continue to influence these local elections. Across the nation, corporate charter schools are promising improved educations for America’s children through bringing in the private sector. This is a critical time for Sarasota County schools, for our community to decide what kind of a school system we want working for us.
The school board recently hired a local PR firm, Three Six Oh, to the tune of $225,000  (for a two-year contract). One might wonder why a school district with a full communications staff would need to outsource public relations work.  
Shortly after the school board announced hiring Three Six Oh, a Herald-Tribune investigation found numerous online comments being made on articles were coming from the same IP address as Candice McElyea, Three Six Oh’s president. An IP address is unique to an internet modem or router, and while numerous devices may use the same internet access point, comments made from that internet modem or router will all share the same IP address.  
McElyea’s company IP address was attached to numerous online comments supportive of her clients (like the developer who paved over supposedly protected wetlands at University and Honore to build a new Whole Foods). In addition, investigative reporters were not able to link the different social media profiles used to actual people. McElyea denied using fake profiles, but acknowledged she hires " ‘brand ambassadors’ that do comment on (news) stories.” Sounds like business-speak for online trolling.  
Superintendent Todd Bowden, a former client of McElyea’s, requested Three Six Oh’s resignation when the newspaper shared their research with him. McElyea has also done PR work for Eric Robinson’s 2016 school board campaign, as well as Mr. Robinson’s Political Action Committee, “Making a Better Tomorrow.”
While he supported the school district spending $225,000 to retain his campaign’s PR firm, Mr. Robinson recently called for the elimination of school board members’ annual salaries of $41,000 per year (saving $225,000—interesting). Eliminating salaries would encourage people to run “for the right reasons,” he says. As a manager of millions in Political Action Committee funds, Mr. Robinson’s work has permitted him to earn a lush six figure consultant fee and an ongoing stream of accounting fees. His own accounting firm recently donated $120,000 to the PAC “Making a Better Tomorrow”—the same PAC donated to his campaign, and the same PAC hired Ms. McElyea’s PR firm as well. Nice for those PAC dollars to circulate among friends. And if you earn and donate hundreds of thousands through shuffling PAC dollars, maybe forgoing a $41,000 salary isn’t a big deal. 
Sarasota schools deliver an education that ranks at the top among Florida’s public schools. Given this excellent performance, an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude may be warranted. Beware of future online comments supporting candidates with a charter school agenda and gushing about the benefits of corporate charter schools. You may instead want to ask “Is that you Candice?”

Cathy Antunes serves on the boards of the Sarasota County Council of Neighborhood Associations and Sarasota Citizens for Responsible Government. 

[Education]  SCF takes action against nursing shortage
Carol Probstfeld, presidentsoffice@scf.edu

A nursing shortage is not just an employment issue, it has the potential to be a healthcare crisis. As the profession expands and retirements loom, our higher education institutions bear the responsibility to educate and train enough highly qualified nurses to meet the demand of our hospitals and healthcare providers.

There are currently more than 12,500 vacant registered nursing jobs, according to the Florida Center for Nursing. The center also projects 69,000 nursing retirements in the next 15 years. Locally, our hospitals report nursing vacancy rates as high as 15 percent. In a state that is growing in population, including its population of citizens over the age of 75, this is a critical shortage.

Our hospitals want nurses with Bachelor of Science in Nursing degrees. As healthcare becomes more complex, our nurses need more education to meet the emerging challenges. Local hospitals require a registered nurse to have a BSN with three to five years of employment. The Suncoast Nursing Action Coalition, which monitors the nursing profession in Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte and Desoto Counties, has set the goal to have 80 percent of nurses with baccalaureate degrees by 2020. SNAC reports that the four-county region is currently just above 31 percent with BSNs.

The BSN is now considered to be the entry-level degree for registered nurses, according to the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s new “Florida Jobs 2030” report. As an education leader in our community, I strongly believe that we must adapt to this change in our statewide higher education framework.

We cannot mass produce a solution to this problem. When our community’s health is in the balance, we have to maintain professional standards to ensure quality care. I am in favor of pursuing every pathway that leads to more BSN nursing graduates for our region at the State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota. I was thrilled to hear the announcement from the University of South Florida, Sarasota-Manatee, of plans for another public-sector BSN program for our area. At SCF, we will continue to take every available action and seek new opportunities to educate our nurses in an affordable manner.

SCF’s Associate in Science in Nursing two-year program works to fill the immediate need for registered nurses in our community. Our nursing graduates are among the highest scorers in the state on the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses. Not surprisingly, our job placement rate for our graduates in 2016 was 100 percent.

As these nurses work in our area hospitals and clinics, they can earn their BSN through SCF’s Online Campus. More than 650 nurses have completed the ASN to BSN track in the past four years, with another 348 currently in the pipeline.

SCF has created one more pathway to the BSN with its new “BSN in Four” program to begin in the Fall 2018 semester. The BSN in Four is an accelerated package designed for full-time students to meet their general education and registered nursing licensure requirements with the ASN and complete the BSN in four years as full-time students.

It is important to recognize that nursing programs are among the most expensive higher education programs. Nursing programs require low faculty-to-student ratios and these programs also require expensive laboratories and simulators. The nursing program at the State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota, would not exist without the contributions from an incredible collection of donors in our community.

SCF has provided high quality nurses at low cost to our community for 60 years. We created our BSN program for this region in 2011 when no other program was available, and in 2018 we will add to our capability with the BSN in Four. We will continue to act to help meet our community’s healthcare needs and will pursue innovative options to add BSN nurses to our community at an affordable cost, in partnership with our area hospitals and generous donor community.

Carol Probstfeld is president of State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota.  

[Best Of SRQ Local]  Cast Your Vote For Best Children's Attraction!

While the region attracts plenty a wealthy professional to its shores, there’s also plenty to do with the kids in tow. Mote Marine Aquarium is known for stealing children’s hearts and making memories that last a lifetime. “All I remember hearing was ‘Mommy, look! Mommy, look!’” — Effie Peterson. Who will be named Best Children’s Attraction this year? Cast your vote in SRQ Magazine's 2018 Best of SRQ Local Readers Competition.  

Vote Here!

[KUDOS]  Selah Freedom's Misty Laperriere Wins Survivor Advocate Of The Year

Selah Freedom’s Director of Outreach and Law Enforcement Liaison, Misty Laperriere, has won the prestigious Survivor Advocate of the Year Award at Attorney General Pam Bondi’s Annual Florida Human Trafficking Summit. In 2016, Laperriere assisted the Sarasota Police Department in rescuing two women from a local hotel. In addition to her work with victims, Laperriere provides training to several law enforcement agencies in Florida including the Sarasota and Bradenton Police Departments and travels throughout the state helping victims of human trafficking. She is now the lead of day-to-day operations for TYLA (Turn Your Life around) Prostitution Court Diversion Program created by Selah Freedom, the State Attorney’s Office 12th Judicial Circuit, Sarasota Police Department and First Step Detox. Misty is also a survivor of sex trafficking and exploitation who has used her experiences to empower thousands of survivors through Selah Freedom’s four programs: Awareness, Prevention, Outreach and Residential Safe Housing. 

Selah Freedom

[SCOOP]  Claire Elsdon joins the PINC stage!

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." It was this Mark Twain quote that made Claire Elsdon leave behind life as a stockbroker to follow her dream: a solo motorcycle trip from London to Cape Town. During her trip, Elsdon observed how educating riders about motorcycle maintenance could help local communities, keep vital projects running, and potentially save lives. The annual PINC Conference is less than one month away and will feature many more speakers like Claire so get your tickets now! 


[SCOOP]  Sarasota YMCA Provides 500 Thanksgiving Meals to Families in Need

Today, the Sarasota Family YMCA will be providing 500 Thanksgiving meals to families in need at the Frank G. Berlin, Sr. branch YMCA Bari Brooks Teen Center. These families are currently being served through Y programs such as Achievers, Operation Graduation and Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY). This is the 14th year that YMCA volunteers (run primarily by students) have passed out Thanksgiving meals to those in need, thanks to generous community donations. Since starting the program, the Y has given out over 3,500 Thanksgiving meals.  

Sarasota YMCA

[KUDOS]  Goodwill Celebrates 1st Anniversary of Kindness Community

On November 13 - World Kindness Day - Goodwill Manasota celebrated the first anniversary of the Kindness Community movement. Jacqueline Moore, past mayor of North Port and Goodwill Ambassador, partnered with Goodwill Manasota to launch the campaign designed to make a positive impact by bringing people together and encourage acts of kindness. More than 25,000 community members have signed the Kindness Community pledge. Both Sarasota and Manatee Counties issued official Kindness Community Proclamations, with the City of North Port adopting a Kindness Community Resolution. Numerous local businesses have donated their time and services to help spread the message. Also in the past year, Goodwill presented a successful, three-part “Kindness at Work Speaker Series” with guest speakers from local companies discussing their decisions to create a kinder workplace.   

Goodwill Manasota

[SCOOP]  City of Sarasota Residents Eligible for Free Tree

Within the City's recently revised tree ordinance to protect and grow the urban canopy, City of Sarasota residents may receive a free tree as part of a developer's tree mitigation plan. The new program allows replacement trees to be located within a 1,000-foot radius of a removal site or in the same neighborhood. Homeowners registering online can specify which kind of palm tree they would like to receive, or the type of canopy tree, ranging from magnolia to gumbo limbo to jacaranda. The varieties posted online are suggested tree types and do not guarantee a resident will receive that species or any tree. Once City staff determines a developer is eligible to mitigate off-site, the Public Tree Request List will be reviewed to try to pair a nearby homeowner with a tree. The developer will be responsible for delivering and planting the tree, and the homeowner will be responsible for caring for it for a minimum of one year. 

Public Tree Request Form

[KUDOS]  All Faiths Food Bank Distributing 6,500 Frozen Turkeys

All Faiths Food Bank received a total of $45,000 in donations from the Kathleen K Catlin Foundation Fund of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County and the Gail Baird Foundation to provide frozen turkeys and side dishes to distribute to over 26,000 people in our community this holiday season. “Many working families within our community don’t have the means to provide a healthy meal during the holidays,” said CEO Sandra Frank. “Thanks to a handful of generous donors, thousands of families in our community will have meals to truly be thankful for this holiday season.” Along with the distribution of 6,500 turkeys, families will also take home cranberry sauce, green beans, potatoes, gravy and stuffing to serve at their holiday dinner.  More than 26,000 people will be served at seven different locations in Sarasota and DeSoto Counties, with the largest distribution of holiday dinners occurring on November 21, from 11am to 5pm at Robarts Arena. 

All Faiths Food Bank

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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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