Friday, December 11, 2009

County Town Hall Wins Two Awards

This blog received its start with the Town Hall Meeting held in Sarasota in June. The county's website announces that that meeting has become an award winner - twice:

Sarasota County wins two top state communications awards for 'virtual' Town Hall meeting
A Sarasota County "virtual" Town Hall meeting called "Money Matters" has been awarded the 2009 Crystal Award and the Judges Award by the Florida Government Communicators Association (FGCA). The Town Hall meeting is part of the county’s Community Connections campaign.

The Crystal Award recognizes the best county community relations program. The Judges Award recognizes a county’s ability to provide outstanding communications programs for minimal cost. The two awards were presented at the 2009 FGCA Annual Conference on Dec. 4 in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

In the two-hour, live "Money Matters" program, citizens in a studio audience or watching a webcast were able to ask, e-mail or call in questions about the county budget, finances, programs and services. The Town Hall was carried on Comcast 19, Verizon 32 and the county’s Web site, County officials participating included Jon Thaxton, Sarasota County Commission Chair, Jim Ley, county administrator, and Steve Botelho, county budget director.

The "Money Matters" Town Hall program is available online

"The Community Connections campaign increases community involvement in county government and encourages communications between the taxpayers of Sarasota County and their government," said Crystal Pruitt, communications manager.

The combination of television, webcasting, e-mail, blogging and phone calls reached virtually every demographic in Sarasota County. Since the "Money Matters" program, Sarasota County has broadcast and webcast other virtual Town Hall meetings, including a forum of health and medical professionals talking about the threat from H1N1 (Swine) Flu.

For more information on the Community Connections campaign, contact the Sarasota County Call Center at 941-861-5000 or visit

Monday, November 2, 2009

Sarasota Has No Economic Development Strategy?

Sarasota County rethinks growth

[The] recession, the end of the building boom and a future made uncertain by the growing options of retirees has turned the old economic development model on its head.

The change was foreshadowed last December when County Administrator Jim Ley admitted in an internal memo to county commissioners that "we have no economic development strategy as a community." ...

the plans to spend more than $90 million on economic development in such a short period of time signaled a decided break from the past.

That shift was apparent again this week when Sarasota County commissioners announced plans for a program to give property tax breaks to businesses promising to create high-paying jobs here. The tax abatement plan would have to be approved by voters, and could be on the ballot as early as next spring.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Another bank closes in Bradenton

Bad loans topple another local bank

Federal regulators on Friday closed Flagship National Bank of Bradenton, the region's fifth bank to fail in the Great Recession. more...

Orange County lacks money to buy, maintain sensitive land

Orange County may not be able to purchase more environmentally sensitive land — property now used to preserve wildlife corridors and watersheds for future generations — for years because of the county's budget crisis. more

PALM BEACH COUNTY - Even as the economic sky was falling,Palm Beach County commissioners last month approved a double-digit tax rate boost to avoid budget shortfalls. more...

Friday, October 16, 2009

The cork in the bottle

Foreclosure filings in Sarasota County spiked by 50 percent in September, even as an end-of-summer lull continued in Manatee and Charlotte counties.


During August, filings dropped by double digits in Sarasota and Manatee counties. The drop in Sarasota was nearly 34 percent from the previous month and 17 percent from the year before.

In Manatee, the monthly drop was 19 percent and up 3 percent from a year ago.

But some think the 50 percent spike in Sarasota County last month foreshadows another wave of filings.

The cork in the bottle is the different ways banks are processing their distressed properties, with some giving borrowers a three-month reprieve to stay in their homes while others are simply ignoring whole sectors where they have foreclosures to keep the toxic assets off their balance sheets. More...

In a good year, insurers still fail

Insurers on shaky ground

102 of the 210 property insurers operating in Florida have reported underwriting losses, according to Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty.

The fact that these insolvencies and underwriting losses occurred in a year in which a hurricane has not struck Florida seriously undermines confidence in the ability of private insurers operating in this state to financially weather a stormy future.

Sarasotan Bill Griffin, his family and businesses have been involved in one failed company...

Citizens and a state-run reinsurance fund remain undercapitalized. The exodus from Florida of brand-name national firms and the underwriting losses of nearly half the property insurers in the state suggest the private sector isn't going to provide adequate coverage unless conditions change.

Insurance is complex and, in Florida, there is no simple way to meet the challenges of making coverage affordable while keeping companies solvent.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Free Enterprise?

Banks set to become region's largest landholders

All in all, banks are set to become some of Southwest Florida's largest landholders.

So far in 2009, they have begun foreclosing on at least 5,500 acres in Manatee and Sarasota counties that were bought for $420 million during the boom. more...

How do banks think? See here.

Fla. faces $2.6 billion shortfall

Just months after patching together a budget by cutting spending, raising fees and gobbling up federal money, Florida lawmakers are bracing for more tough times next year.

Florida could face a budget shortfall of as much as $2.6 billion for the 2010-11 fiscal year that starts in July, as state tax collections continue sagging and costs increase for programs such as Medicaid.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Comp Plan Public Hearing Wednesday

Sarasota County Planning Services invites you to attend the first of several public hearings about proposed amendments to the county’s comprehensive plan before the Sarasota County Commission. The public hearing will take place at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 14, in the commission chamber at the County Administration Center, 1660 Ringling Blvd., Sarasota.

At this public hearing, the county commissioners will take testimony on the following amendments, which will affect several chapters of the comprehensive plan:

  • Adding new policies and amending an existing policy to address nonconforming residential densities. The purpose of this amendment is to deal with situations where the density permitted within existing zoning districts exceeds the density allowed by future land use designations on the future land use map.
  • Amending policies to limit residential densities to nine units per acre maximum in the in the light office future land use designation.
  • Adding the adoption of three new impact fee ordinances and revising a policy regarding school concurrency.

We hope to see you there and please forward this message along to your friends and acquaintances that may have an interest in these proposed changes. If you aren't able to attend, but would like to send in your comments, e-mail them to More information about these amendments can be found on the county’s Web site at

Monday, October 5, 2009

Polk County Budget Blues

Trying To Manage County Like Business, Not Bureaucracy

“More entrepreneurial than bureaucratic” was the mantra County Manager Mike Herr stressed while discussing the county’s $1.6 billion budget with the Polk County Tiger Bay Club on Monday.

While the county hs been affected by growth and the economic recession, it also managed to keep the millage rate the same, at 7.4993 mills. The overall budget is $111 million less than the budget for last fiscal year, Herr said.

One of the ways the county has managed to cut costs was by eliminating 80 positions. “I hate to do that,” Herr said, “because that means less jobs for people who need them, but there was no other way.” More...

See also:

In Palm Beach County, some governments hold the line on pay raises
Meanwhile, workers for Palm Beach County governments are paying attention to what's happening in some cities in Broward County. While budget strains have ...

Nearly a quarter of Florida residents have no health insurance
Every surveyed city and county in the Tampa Bay area had a lower rate of insured residents than the national average, with the worst rates occurring in ...

Monday, September 28, 2009

Schools and Vegetables

Throughout Leon County, teachers and students are seeing the impact of the 4 percent cuts each school had to make to their budgets. Teachers like Long wonder when they will be able to buy more books. Other schools need technology upgrades or added hours for teachers to be able to better serve students.

The Legislature passed the added property tax to help districts in Florida offset budget cuts; and that is exactly what Superintendent Jackie Pons intends ...

Vegetable specialist covers a lot of turf
Naples Daily News
By then they hope the state budget will improve, making more money available to the University of Florida. “With the budget crisis, every position that ...

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Salaries Incommensurate with Economic Crater

Ernst: Salary reviews should be routine

A police captain in Venice makes $103,750 a year. The deputy finance director makes $96,096. A parks foreman makes $60,623.

Last week, as the Venice City Council prepared for a final vote on next year's budget, a list of 56 nonunion salaries made the rounds among the citizenry. People always love to know what others earn, but Mike Rafferty had another reason for circulating the salary chart obtained by the Venice Taxpayers League.

He did not want the council to raise his property tax rate. He pointed to the salaries as an example of spending that is out of whack with what the public can afford. And he suggested that the council cut salaries before it raises taxes. More...

Regional GDP Plummets and more hot topics

Region's GDP drops severely

Published: Friday, September 25, 2009 at 1:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, September 24, 2009 at 5:52 p.m.

The Great Recession and housing downturn took a considerable bite out of gross domestic product in Southwest Florida, reversing a course of large growth starting in 2006.

The data released Thursday from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics might be the broadest measure to date of the pain. GDP is the total market values of goods and services produced by workers and capital within a area's borders within a year.

From 2005 to 2006, the Bradenton-Sarasota-Venice area's GDP rose 7.4 percent, or about $1.7 billion, to $24.66 billion.

But things started sliding in 2007 and by 2008, GDP had slipped $836 million, or about 3.4 percent, to $23.83 billion from its peak.

County passes $400.8M budget
Tampa Tribune
To save more money, commissioners had already approved reductions in the mosquito control budgetand voted to cancel membership in the Florida Association ...
Orange OKs $3.1 Billion Budget, Jail Critics Sound Off
Orlando Sentinel
No residents complained tonight when Orange County leade

Brantley hires Florida man to be new manager
Florida Times-Union
Barwick, 45, will face a daunting list of problems that plague the rural county, from a $3 million budget deficit to washboard dirt roads to overflowing ...

Miami-Dade County cultural groups await details of budget cuts
BY HOWARD COHEN, ALEXANDRA MARTINEZ AND LOLA DUFFORT Hundreds of cultural and arts groups were spared from being axed out of the county's budget. ...
South Miami sets lower tax rate
According to the county property appraiser's office, taxable values in the city have dropped 9.3 percent. A budget of about $19.2 million -- $433000 less ...

No tax break for some despite declining property values
Crestview News Bulletin (blog)
At issue is the “recapture rule,” a little-known regulation adopted by the Florida Department of Revenue in 1995 that only applies to homesteaded properties ...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Closely contested budget issues

Counties take different roads on employees, budget cuts

While high-ranking government employees in Miami-Dade have scored major pay raises despite the county’s financial woes, Broward and Palm Beach counties are taking a much different tack.

No one earning more than $100,000 a year in Broward government will receive a raise this year and must take a five-day unpaid furlough along with all other county workers. No raises are planned for top administrators in Palm Beach County either, and that county isn’t doing furloughs.

Ultimately, final budget refutes Alvarez
When Carlos Alvarez unveiled ``his'' proposed budget in July it was an end-of-civilization-as-we-know-it document. About 1700 county jobs would be cut, ...
County leaders receiving raises amid budget cuts
FORT MYERS: At a time of budget cuts and salary freezes, some of our top leaders in Lee County are actually getting raises. From the sheriff to county ...
Elections boss can't find any more budget cuts
Tampa Tribune
Commissioner Jeff Stabins said efforts are under way by upper county management to reduce Williams'budget and they will find places to cut by Thursday's ...
Collier County sheriff shoulders tough load shoulders load
The News-Press
by chris umpierre • • September 23, 2009 With each press conference, the bags under Collier County Sheriff Kevin Rambosk's eyes ...
Firefighters plead, but county OKs budget cuts
Gainesville Sun
Alachua County firefighters and supporters hold signs in protest of budget cuts for firefighters outside the County Administration building at the ...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Budget Issues around the State

Palm Beach County commission hikes property tax rate 15 percent
County budget planners blamed the tax rate increase on a need to compensate for a drop in tax revenue stemming from the struggling economy. ...

County budget
has $12.5 million in cuts, layoffs
Clay Today
Even more disturbing is the economic crisis Behring says the county will face for fiscal year 2010-2011. He said Florida's housing industry has been among ...

Miami-Dade County Commission approves $7.4B budget
Zikkir World (blog)
Jack Russell and a handful of others used the funding of the $640 million ballpark for the FloridaMarlins as a touchstone for their anger. The county took ...
County Should Help Fill Clinic's Shortfall, Panel Recommends
The Ledger
By Robin Williams Adams BARTOW | Central Florida Health Care should get $225000 from countyindigent-care funds to partially offset a shortfall at its ...

Ford, Foster outline their plans for spending tax dollars more wisely
Citrus County moved to a form of zero-based budgeting in 2008. A third of the county's budget is closely scrutinized every year. "It helps you prioritize," ...

Water wars
The News Herald
That population growth demanded broader county operations; the county's budget has grown from $89 million in 1989 to $294 million for 2010. ...

Friday, September 18, 2009

Around the state

County Budget Fight a Battle Royale
NBC Miami
By TODD WRIGHT With more than $444 million in deficits facing the county, everything and everyone will be a target going into tonight's final budget hearing ...

Editorial: FYI, Martin County taxpayers; another proposed 'fee ...
The courts in Martin County, just like the courts in every other Florida county, are essentially state operations. The lion's share of the fines collected ...

Collier school board votes to raise tax rates
Naples Daily News
The issue brought many questions from Collier County residents before the School Board held its finalbudget hearing Thursday evening. ...

Miami-Dade County highest spender in lobbying US
The county's spending, though, may be cut back. The County Commission Thursday is prepared to pass a budget that caps the county's federal lobbying budget ...

Clerk's office abolishing 44 positions
Tampa Tribune
BY CARL ORTH NEW PORT RICHEY - A budget upheaval continues to reshape the staff at the PascoCounty Office of Clerk and Comptroller, where 44 jobs will end ...

Windfall restores county services for 2010 fiscal year
Tampa Tribune
County officials had already factored a $1.2 million rebate into the fiscal 2010 budget, which takes effect Oct. 1. The last-minute injection of $3 million ...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

FGCU cuts - and Philly Library Shut

FGCU cuts spending in order to come in under budget
Naples Daily News
By LESLIE WILLIAMS LEE COUNTYBudget directors braced for stormy financial seas at FloridaGulf Coast University are reporting smooth sailing so far early ...

In Philadelphia:
All Free Library of Philadelphia Branch, Regional and Central Libraries Closed Effective Close of Business October 2, 2009

All Free Library of Philadelphia Customers,

We deeply regret to inform you that without the necessary budgetary legislation by the State Legislature in Harrisburg, the City of Philadelphia will not have the funds to operate our neighborhood branch libraries, regional libraries, or the Parkway Central Library after October 2, 2009. More...

Monday, September 14, 2009

Taxes and Budges

County tax rate stays nearly put
By Bill Thompson Marion County commissioners tentatively passed a $594 million budget for the new fiscal year on Thursday, but not before getting an earful ...
Miami Shores sets higher preliminary tax rate
The tentative tax rate can be decreased during the budget process, which lasts through September, but cannot be increased, according to Florida law. ...

Funding Cuts Leave Area Colleges Gasping
Washington Post
The University of Maryland Baltimore County is cutting positions. And Virginia's state universities are coping with furloughs for the first time in recent ...

Friday, September 11, 2009

Sarasota County Budget Hearing 9.14

September 14, 2009

7:00 p.m.





Jon Thaxton, Chair, District 5

Joseph A. Barbetta, Vice Chair, District 2

Carolyn J. Mason, District 1

Shannon Staub, District 3

Nora Patterson, District 4




Public hearing to consider Fiscal Year (FY) 2010 Proposed Millage Rates and Tentative Budgets for Sarasota County, and the final adoption and certification of the FY 2010 Non-Ad Valorem Assessment Rates and Assessment Rolls.




OPEN TO THE PUBLIC - (Three-minute time limit per person/per meeting.)


Individuals with disabilities needing assistance to participate in any of these proceedings should contact County Administration at least three (3) working days in advance of the meeting date and time at (941) 861-5344.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Budget decisions, decisions

School board nixes millage increase
Daily Commercial
Still, the community was divided over whether to compromise the county's learning environment or its residents' ability to survive in one of Florida's ...

Fort Lauderdale's proposed budget
By Brittany Wallman South Florida Sun-Sentinel Operating budget: $327.5 million, for city services such as police, fire and parks. ...

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

From boom to reality?

Unfinished projects part of real estate collapse

Unfinished buildings, dead dogs, foreclosures, code violations, skeletons of commercial dreams, condos becoming homeless camps. More...

Published: Wednesday, September 9, 2009 at 1:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, September 8, 2009 at 7:54 p.m.

The American dream of home ownership is still attainable. Buyers just have to deal with a new set of realities. More...

Around the State Today

Despite Stimulus, Education Suffers Cuts
CBS News
But that state is still reeling from an anticipated a $26 billion budget deficit, and teachers who had been rehired may face more pink slips. In Florida ...

Budget crunch forcing schools to cut, become creative
Jewish Telegraphic Agency

... of Palm Beach County in Florida is closing because of budgetary problems, examples abound of day schools struggling at the start of the academic year. ...
See all stories on this topic
Commissioners vote to approve 15 percent tax increase
County critics say the budget squeeze blamed on the declining economy could have been lessened by better management of revenues during South Florida's ...
See all stories on this topic
County may eliminate 199 more jobs
Florida Today
BY RICK NEALE • FLORIDA TODAY • September 9, 2009 Brevard County's next fiscal budget may include $40 million in spending cuts and elimination of 199 jobs, ...

Miami mayor's budget proposal puts the onus on unions
Also on the mayor's hit list: Increased parking fees, changing weekly bulk garbage pickup to monthly, and hikes in various fees like Florida Power & Light's ...

City of Sarasota's Proposed Budget

This link will take you to the City of Sarasota's proposed 2009-1010 Capital Improvement Plan. The next budget hearing is Sept. 21, at 6 pm, at City Hall.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Tepid article describes stalemate

Business stimulus stalled in state

- Eight months after vowing to spend $10 million in state money to "plant the seeds" to create new jobs, an economic stimulus program initiated by Gov. Charlie Crist has yet to hand out a dime.

Around the state: Tax Increases

Schools Aided by Stimulus Money Still Facing Cuts
New York Times
Florida's second-largest system, Broward County Schools, laid off 400 teachers, but aided by stimulus money, rehired more than 100. ...

Property Tax Increase Could Be On The Way
A week from today, the Escambia County School Board is looking at a millage rate increase that would be the second highest in Florida. ...

Despite pleas, county oks higher tax rate
The DeLand-Deltona Beacon
The second and final public hearing on the county's budget and tax rates is set for 6 pm Thursday, Sept. 17, in the Thomas C. Kelly County Administration ...

Budget woes may shut 4-H
Miami-Dade would be only the second county to cut ties with 4-H in Florida, according to Marilyn Norman, 4-H state leader in Gainesville. ...

Near the bottom in education funding

Education burden shifted to property owners
Florida continues to rank near the bottom of all states in per-pupil funding.
Gainesville Sun

lawmakers have shifted the responsibility of paying for K-20 education - kindergarten through college - to property owners.

Of all the state's general revenues - which include sales tax and fees - education's share declined from 61.5 percent in 1984-85 to 50.5 percent in 2005-06.

Looking at just the education budget: In 1985, state sales taxes and fees paid 65 percent of the cost of public education. Now, sales taxes and fees pay only 47 percent. The rest comes from property taxes. more...
See also:
Tourism board advising Collier commission to cut county museum funding
Naples Daily News
“They are cutting back on people and everything else to keep the county budget balanced.” The Marco Island museum is slated to get $80000 next year for ...