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SRQ DAILY Mar 17, 2018

"What it revealed is that not one of the local governments would see a cut in revenue from one year to the next. They will actually continue to see increases in their revenues while we are in the economy we are enjoying today. So why do we keep hearing the word “cut”? "

- Christine Robinson, The Argus Foundation

[Gulf Coast]  New Find Sheds Light on (Really) Old Florida
Mark Pritchett, mpritchett@gulfcoastcf.org

An unprecedented discovery in our own backyard has made international news in recent weeks. This breathtaking archaeological find—almost 3,000 years older than the Great Pyramids—offers a unique glimpse of the lives and landscape of the indigenous people who called this place home over 7,000 years before us. It also reinforces how deep Florida’s history runs and why it’s worth protecting and preserving.

In many senses, ours is a “new” state. Florida’s population has grown nearly 700 percent since 1950. Traditionally dominant industries in our region have focused on attracting people here and building places for them to stay, often permanently. You can pick your favorite joke about how hard it can be to find someone who was born here or how long a structure needs to stand to earn the label “historic.”

But look beyond the clichés and you’ll find that our history is rich, varied and, frankly, a big draw for those who come here. From the elegant mid-century modern architecture of the Sarasota School, to the walkable charms of the John Nolen-planned Venice Historic District, to the vestiges of pioneer life interpreted at places like Historic Spanish Point, our region oozes history, and residents and visitors love to soak it in. And then there’s the archaeological record, which spans 14,000 years and includes virtually every stage of human habitation of North America.

Newly added to that record is an incredible find 21 feet deep in the Gulf of Mexico just off the coast of Venice. First reported to Florida’s Department of State by a fossil hunter who realized he’d found a human jawbone, the Manasota Key Offshore site, as it’s now called, turned out to be a 7,200-year-old archaeological wonder.

The site was once an inland, freshwater pond used by ancestors of Florida’s indigenous people to inter their dead. Natural sea-level rise since the last ice age eventually inundated it. Incredibly, however, peat that covered the pond’s bottom remained intact, preserving organic material including wooden stakes, fibers and even human remains. The site also demonstrates features of the landscape on which those people lived, such as evidence of ancient springs and rivers, giving scientists an opportunity to reconstruct their prehistoric environment.

Because the site includes an ancestral resting place, the State is treating it with the respect and dignity required by law and deserved by the individuals buried there. A long-term management plan focuses on protecting this delicate submerged landscape and appropriate treatment of the remains is being conducted in direct communication with the closest living descendants of these ancestral people.

Our community is dutifully supporting this work, with local efforts coordinated by Gulf Coast Community Foundation at the request of Florida’s Secretary of State. Many local partners are helping, including Historic Spanish Point, Ringling College of Art and Design, Sarasota County Historical Resources, Venice Museum & Archives, neighborhood associations and others.

Even as the burial site is properly protected and preserved, which includes barring any disturbance or non-authorized exploration, the discovery holds vast potential for the public to learn about our region’s human and natural history. Finding a once-terrestrial site like this preserved on the continental shelf is a first in the Americas. As it was a community cemetery, what other parts of the community might have surrounded it? How did it survive sea-level rise, let alone hurricanes, erosion and other natural occurrences? How many other sites could be out there?

The Manasota Key Offshore site is the most recently discovered star in a wondrous constellation of archaeological treasures that dot our stretch of the Gulf Coast. Each illuminates what life was like for the first Floridians. Connecting them will provide a fuller understanding of our region’s fascinating past. As a community, we can advance this understanding by observing the laws that protect these sites, appreciating all that what we can respectfully learn from them, and thoughtfully stewarding the natural and historical resources we have inherited.

To learn more about the Manasota Key Offshore site, visit dos.myflorida.com or GulfCoastCF.org.

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

[Argus]  Be Honest About Amendments
Christine Robinson, Christine@argusfoundation.org

Amendments 1 and 2 are a hot topic amongst local governments. We have heard many governments loudly complain about these amendments. These governments have used the word “cut” frequently to describe what is going to happen if these amendments pass.

The Argus Foundation has not taken a position as to whether to support these amendments, but we do want the public discourse and the conversation to be honest and forthcoming to the electorate.

First, we will address Amendment 2. This amendment is not new to anyone. Elected officials in local legislative bodies have been living and budgeting under this amendment since each of them took office. This amendment keeps the non-homestead cap that is in place right now. Passed in 2008, it caps how much local governments can increase certain property taxes every year and dramatically limits taxes on affordable housing and small businesses. Without this amendment, taxes could increase in unlimited amounts for rental units and small businesses. 

Next is a new amendment. Amendment 1 provides for a $25,000 homestead exemption on home values between $100,000 and $125,000. That portion of the home’s value would be exempted. This is a homestead exemption so rentals, commercial and second homes are excluded. This shrinks the properties this affects significantly. 

We asked the property appraiser to apply this exemption to this tax year so we could see how each government would be affected. What it revealed is that not one of the local governments would see a cut in revenue from one year to the next. They will actually continue to see increases in their revenues while we are in the economy we are enjoying today.

So why do we keep hearing the word “cut”? 

This is government language not based in real world experiences. In the real world, if you were hoping for a 5-percent raise and get a 3-percent raise instead, that is not a cut to your income. It is still a raise; you will get more than you did last year.

In government speak, that is a cut because you did not get everything you wanted. 

It is important that folks have real information about this issue and that government uses the same language of the people it represents when talking about these amendments.

The Argus Foundation wrote an email to each local government using the Sarasota County Property Appraiser’s numbers. These numbers applied the amendment calculations to this year so they could each see the reality of the numbers for their government.

The City of Venice took that information and decided to explore this issue. They invited Property Appraiser Bill Furst to explain the numbers this week. It was an honest and truthful discussion unfiltered by staff and the League of Cities. We commend the City of Venice for their approach and public discussion for the benefit of their taxpayers. The numbers are what they are. The City of Venice did not spin them or attempt to.

We congratulate the City of Venice and hope to see the other local governments follow this best practice and go into budget planning with their eyes wide open on this issue. On behalf of the Argus Foundation, we are proud to have assisted on this issue, which affects the economic well being of Sarasota County and its cities.

Christine Robinson is executive director of The Argus Foundation. 

[On Education]  1-Millage Referendum: The Student Perspective
Mark-Elliot Finley and Dorian Bizeau

On March 20, all of us who can vote have a very important responsibility to fulfill. The special election to continue the 1-mill local property tax referendum is being held. This is not a new tax but has been in effect since 2002, allowing Sarasota County students to be the pinnacle of academic success in Florida.  The 1-mill referendum raises $55.6 million per year, 13 percent of the overall budget for Sarasota County Schools. Based on the outcome of the upcoming vote, such funding could be at risk of be cut. We are students in Sarasota County Schools, reminding you to vote “Yes” March 20.

While there has been a large amount of information bombarding voters on the facts and statistics of this referendum, we want to provide a student perspective as the recipients of such funding. We are seniors at Sarasota Military Academy and Booker High School and we currently serve as student board members for the Education Foundation of Sarasota County and are here to tell you how this election intimately impacts us.

We each have had the awesome opportunity to be in a county with a wonderful supply of funds for our education.

Personally, I (Mark-Elliot) have been able to take advantage of opportunities in the visual arts including participation in a film program during middle school, giving me the chance to use truly high-end equipment at a young age. Such an experience has caused me to pursue interests in the visual arts, specifically visual storytelling. I am also in the International Baccalaureate program, which I am sure would not be possible without the funding from the previous referendum. This academic program has given me a chance to find my passions in life (teaching and the French language) and has taught me life skills that I will take with me in my future. I know that I would not have had this opportunity to have access to this program if it were not for the continuation of the 1 mill tax referendum.

I (Dorian) have seen how the 1-mill funds help Sarasota students become well-rounded with music, dance, art and drama classes. For some students at my school, creative elective classes are their main incentive to go to school. My classmate, Shelby Fletcher, is enrolled in the Visual and Performing Arts program at Booker High School and has commented, “I tolerate my core classes because it means I get to dance during my elective ones. Dance courses are what keep me coming to school.” In my experience, a fantastic teacher makes all the difference in the classroom. The referendum allows Sarasota County Schools to attract and retain exceptional teachers. Our district is able to seek out passionate, well-educated and professional teachers with good character. Higher salaries encourage quality teachers not only to come to our county, but also to stay.

In short, we want you to vote Yes! We have a unique perspective as both voters and students, and it is our desire to see ALL our fellow Sarasota County students reach their academic and personal potential, which is dramatically helped by the funds provided by the 1-mill tax. Join us and vote YES on March 20.

Mark-Elliot Finley, Sarasota Military Academy class of 2018, and Dorian Bizeau, Booker High School class of 2018, serve as student board members at the Education Foundation of Sarasota County. 

[SCOOP]  Goodwill Helps Children of Deceased and Disabled Veterans

Goodwill Manasota and Take Stock in Children of Manatee County have joined forces to create a scholarship program for the children of service members who have died or become disabled as a result of their military service. Goodwill will be responsible for fundraising; Take Stock in Children (TSIC) will provide scholarship recipients with a Take Stock education and a future. Both organizations will participate in interviewing scholarship candidates. Currently, TSIC provides scholarships to at-risk, academically-qualified students in grades 6-9 who face significant obstacles to furthering their education. The Take Stock model of providing a guaranteed college scholarship, a mentor, and college success coach has led to the organization’s scholars outperforming students on the national level. With the help of Goodwill Manasota’s Veteran Services Program, children of deceased or disabled veterans will now have a dedicated TSIC post-secondary scholarship and a mentor to enable them to reach their potential.  

Goodwill Manasota

[KUDOS ]  Sarasota County Sheriffs Donate Computers to SRQ VETS

The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office donated 10 computers to SRQ VETS, a non-profit organization founded and led by volunteer veterans who work to serve fellow veterans in Sarasota County. The computers were previously used by the sheriff’s office and following recent technology and software updates, refurbished for use by the public. The computers will be placed at various locations to assist veterans who may need internet access, are seeking employment or enrolling in online classes. 

Sarasota County Sheriffs Office

[SCOOP]  Spring Break Palooza

The Humane Society of Sarasota County’s Spring Break Palooza is purrfect for kids who love animals! During our one-day palooza campers will meet shelter pets and other exotic animals, such as llamas, baby pigs, roosters, reptiles, and more, play games, create animal-themed crafts and learn from exciting speakers. Spring Break Palooza is designed for children ages 6-12 and held in the Education Center at the Humane Society of Sarasota County. This is a popular program that fills up quickly, so please register early. The cost is $60 per child and lunch is included. 

Humane Society of Sarasota County

[KUDOS ]  Community Service Spring Break

The Glasser/Schoenbaum Human Services Center hosted these collegiates for a week to help with projects at their campus as well as projects at other non-profits in Sarasota. This Monday, the business students will put on gardening gloves and help with spring cleanup around Pines of Sarasota’s 25-acre campus. In the afternoon, instead of the normal spring break beach volleyball, these helpful students will be spending quality time with Pines of Sarasota’s residents in a rousing game of balloon volleyball. “Volunteers are part of the fabric of Pines of Sarasota’s success. We are so honored to have the Glasser/Schoenbaum Human Services Center include us in the FisherCares trip. To have 15 college students give of their time to help us with our grounds and spend some quality time with our residents has enormous value to our organization,” explains Ivy Ruark, Director of Volunteer Services.  

Pines of Sarasota

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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