Friday, July 31, 2009

Region's tax base shrinks faster than state's

... the total taxable value of property in Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte counties will have dropped $33 billion, or 27 percent, in the three years since the real estate slide started.
Taxable values for school districts:

Charlotte County

2007, $19.9 billion
2008, $16.9 billion
2009 (projected), $14.8 billion

Manatee County

2007, $33.1 billion
2008, $30.5 billion
2009 (projected), $27.1 billion

Sarasota County

2007, $55.8 billion
2008, $49.3 billion
2009 (projected), $45.3 billion

Source: Consensus of state economists

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The impacts continue

Board OKs first hike in six years to school taxes
Cape Coral Daily Breeze
He also characterized the Legislature's education budget as "smoke and mirrors" that left Lee Countyresponsible for budget shortfalls. ...

FDLE to reduce policing at Broward County's three `racinos'
BY MICHAEL VASQUEZ Blaming the state's budget crunch, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement has drastically reduced its policing of Broward County's ...

Tax rate would increase because of lower property values
By Marc Freeman South Florida Sun-Sentinel Property taxes and class sizes would rise under a tentative $2.8 billion budget for Palm Beach County public ...

Hillsborough officials trying to find ways to avoid cuts
Tampa Tribune
By MIKE SALINERO | The Tampa Tribune TAMPA - Hillsborough County budget crunchers have come up with $19 million in one-time savings that can be used to ...

Sheriff Rutherford searching to offset spending
Florida Times-Union
Peyton said public safety shouldn't be cut at a time Jacksonville is fighting a reputation as Florida's murder capital. The council, which ultimately ...

School board hosts budget hearing tonight
Florida Today
BY MEGAN DOWNS • FLORIDA TODAY • July 30, 2009 The Brevard County School Board will meet tonight to discuss an operating budget that's down about 4.4 ...

Sullivan County BOE to tackle $5.27 million shortfall
Kingsport Times News
... budget to fix that pool and do repairs and maintenance on the ones at other schools, so Holt said she was surprised when she returned from a Florida ...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Task Force Meets Tonight, Tomorrow

Budget Task Force to meet Wednesday, Thursday

Members of the Budget Task Force will receive more information from Sarasota County staff this week and start work on their report to the county commission.

Task force members will meet at 6 p.m. Wednesday, July 29, in the third floor Think Tank of the County Administration Center, 1660 Ringling Blvd., Sarasota and again at 6 p.m. Thursday, July 30, in the first floor Press Room of the County Administration Center.

The Wednesday session will focus on the budgets for Construction Management Services, Emergency Services, Talent and Performance Management, Communications, Financial Planning and Enterprise Information Technology.

Thursday, task force members will begin drafting their report regarding the county budget, which they will deliver to the county commission on Sept. 8.

Both meetings are public but only the Wednesday meeting will be aired live over Access Sarasota TV on Comcast channel 19 and Verizon channel 32, and webcast over

Sarasota County commissioners appointed the 10-member task force to review the county’s proposed fiscal year 2010 budget and make recommendations about priorities.

Residents can also provide feedback about county budget priorities through an online budget tool at This web-based survey allows property owners to enter their assessed property value and shows the amount of their property tax bill that pays for services such as fire and emergency medical service, libraries and parks. Property owners can select different levels of service for these areas and see how changing the level of service affects their property tax bill.

For additional information on the Citizens’ Budget Task Force, contact the Sarasota County Call Center at 941-861-5000.

Collier increases minimum tax rate

— For a while it looked like Collier County homeowners were going to see an 11.7 percent increase in taxes.

Tuesday afternoon, the proposed tax rate increased since last month.

What that means: Instead of paying $351 in taxes on a $100,000 home for general government services, it appears Collier residents will pay $356 in property taxes.

Homeowners currently pay $314 on a $100,000 home.

Tuesday, Collier County leaders increased their maximum tax rate to $3.5645 per $1,000 worth of property for the upcoming year, just after engaging in a protracted budget debate with Clerk of Court Dwight Brock.

That tax rate would contribute to a $345 million general budget. More...

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

"Removing bodies from the battlefield"

Florida tax base falls 15 percent

But the decline, $360 billion, is less than projected

Published: Tuesday, July 28, 2009 at 1:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, July 27, 2009 at 7:16 p.m.

More than $360 billion leaked out of Florida property values last year, more than the entire value of Miami-Dade County. more...

Keyhole to the Future?

What the housing turnaround will look like

Cape Coral, Fla., not long ago one of the foreclosure capitals of America, is now seeing a rebound as home prices hit once-in-a-generation lows.

Real estate agent Denny Grimes got 34 offers in two weeks on a foreclosed home in Cape Coral, Fla. He said one of the open houses was so frenetic that it was like a tryout for 'American Idol.'

Grimes notes that at the peak of the market in 2006, only 12 homes in the entire county were selling for under $100,000. Now there are 3,554 listed. At least 50 homes are selling for under $25,000.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Less means Less

Taxpayers will soon get less from local governments caught in budget crunch

The bust in property values opened vast budget holes for local governments, and taxpayers across the region are sure to notice the difference.


On the home front, property-tax rates are poised to increase for many homeowners still recovering from the economic storm. So, too, are water fees and trash-pickup costs.

In the community, some libraries and parks are closing an extra day, pool hours are likely to be reduced and bus service curtailed. Even senior meals on wheels won't be as plentiful.

At school, there will be fewer assistant principals in offices and teachers in classrooms. Students will find fewer guidance counselors to turn to.

As local governments throughout South Florida face the painful reality of fallen property values, residents will unmistakably feel the pinch.

``You are going to see library hours cut; you are going to see park hours cut,'' said Gary Resnick, president of the Broward League of Cities and mayor of Wilton Manors, which now closes city hall on Fridays to save money. ``The cuts are not going to be invisible.'' more...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Flippin' Nuts

Across Florida, the newspaper found 50,000 property deals involving $10 billion in sales that met the criteria for likely fraud. More...

Sarasota Outlook

“Sarasota County’s economy has entered its worst economic episode in memory. The unemployment rate in the county, which historically has been below the national average, now exceeds the unemployment rate in the nation as a whole, and it’s expected to get worse before improving slightly in the second half of 2010." More...

Miami looks at steep cuts in cultural grants

Proposed budget would eliminate $11 million in cultural grants

By Zachary S. Fagenson
The head of Miami-Dade's Cultural Affairs Council says he doubts county commissioners will carry out Mayor Carlos Alvarez' proposal to eliminate $11 million in cultural grant money.
Arts and cultural groups inject too many dollars into the local economy to fall victim to Mayor Alvarez's cuts, said Adolfo Henriques, Cultural Affairs Council chair....
If carried out, the cuts would spell trouble for nearly 1,000 cultural groups of all shapes and sizes....
The mayor's cost-cutting measures also remove general-fund subsidies to Miami Art Museum, the Historical Museum of Southern Florida and Miami Science Museum. more...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Special report from Lehigh Acres

Citizen Special Report and Analysis: Financial crises loom in Lehigh Acres

For example a home with a $100,000 mortgage is now selling for $26,000. A sign outside a real estate office in Lehigh Acres advertises "Foreclosures from $25,000."

Holders of subprime mortgage bonds have flooded the market with foreclosed homes. More...

California no longer dreamin'

Devastating Cuts for Education, the Poor, Health Care, and Local Governments

Taking the brunt of the blow once again is education which has now had over $17 billion in cuts in the last two budget deals. That represents nearly one-third of the funding for education which is also the single largest line item on the budget. More...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Prudence in Pinellas, says Commish

Pinellas County did not spend all of the new tax revenue generated during the past few years, but saved a substantial portion of the new property taxes collected. About $65 million was allocated to the county's general fund reserves between 2004 and 2006. This "savings account" is set aside to better position Pinellas County to recover after a hurricane or other natural disaster, to maintain cash flow at the beginning of each new fiscal year and to handle other emergencies. During the last two years, the county has strategically spent down a portion of our reserves, while maintaining a minimum reserve of 15 percent of the general fund balance. More...

North Port in Denial?

NORTH PORT - North Port faces a looming financial crisis that could force it to cut tens of millions of dollars from its budget for years to come. But instead of cutting expenses, the city is spending its savings and hoping for an economic turnaround.

Without tax increases and deep spending reductions, city budget writers predict North Port's general fund will be $10 million short by 2011, with cumulative shortfalls of $59 million by 2014.

To come up with $59 million, the city would have to shut down City Hall, the police force, part of the fire department and the City Commission -- in other words, its entire general fund, which is $42 million this year. ...

Despite the problems, city leaders have avoided the steep reductions in services, wages or employees that other area local governments have taken. Indeed, last month, they approved $870,000 in wage increases for firefighters and rejected a proposed $400,000 budget cut for the police force next year.


Monday, July 20, 2009

Sarasota Memorial may raise tax rate

SARASOTA — - Sarasota Memorial Hospital board members are planning to propose a nearly 15 percent tax rate increase at their meeting today.
The proposed increase, the hospital’s first since the recession began in 2007, comes as other taxing districts are deciding to hold rates steady or drop them.

Hospital officials say the increase is needed to fund building projects and a growing number of expenses incurred as the region’s only public hospital, charged with providing services that are increasingly unprofitable such as delivering babies and treating the poor.

Without the rate increase, the hospital would lose an estimated $6.6 million because of the decline in property values.

The board is set to vote today whether to propose a rate increase. The vote is on whether to increase the rate on Sept. 21, after the last of two public hearings. The proposed new tax rate is $1.08 for each $1,000 of taxable home value, up from the current rate of 94 cents per $1,000. More...

Cuts still loom for Sarasota school district

SARASOTA COUNTY -- The Sarasota County School Board will hold its first tentative budget hearing Tuesday, following a regular board meeting. And despite drastic budget cuts, positions will still be lost.

The board has been working since last fall to trim its 2009-10 budget, and has succeeded in identifying more than $40 million, or about 20 percent, that can be cut.

While visiting family in Massachusetts over the weekend, Board Chair Caroline Zucker said about $31 million was the result of cuts, while the rest came from cost-saving measures. link

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Low-cost health plan available to Miami-Dade residents

A low-cost health plan is now available for Miami-Dade County residents who don't have insurance.


Miami-Dade residents who don't have health insurance can sign up for a new plan aimed at helping the estimated 600,000 uninsured in the county.

Called Miami-Dade Blue, the program went into effect July 1. It's a joint venture between the county and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida and is designed with low premiums and low co-pays.


Depending on age and gender, individuals can expect to pay between $70 and $300 a month for coverage, which includes regular check-ups, pharmacy, labs, emergency room visits, basic dental care and hospital coverage.


An obstacle the county faced was bargaining prices with hospitals and healthcare providers, Martinez said. The program has about 1,500 doctors in the network, with most of them agreeing to take about $50 for a basic office visit, which is the amount the plan will pay. Specialists will cost more.


Miami-Dade officials estimate there are 600,000 uninsured people countywide. Of those, 80 percent work but cannot afford health coverage.

The plan is open to individuals under 65, regardless of income. more...

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Palm Beach County commissioners discuss raising taxes 15 percent

PALM BEACH COUNTY - Palm Beach County commissioners on Monday initially endorsed raising property tax rates as much as 15 percent next year, which would still not avoid layoffs and deep cuts to community services.

The county blames a drop in tax revenue amid a struggling economy for the need to boost tax rates to pay for county services.

If given final approval, the property tax rate would go from $3.78 per $1,000 of taxable value to $4.34. For a home worth about $230,000 and eligible for a $50,000 homestead exemption, that would equate to about $800 in county property taxes next year. That could translate to about $100 more in property taxes than this year and doesn't include taxes for schools, cities and other government agencies.

Even with an increased tax rate, the county is considering almost 200 layoffs as well as deep cuts to programs serving children, the elderly and the handicapped.

For budget planning purposes, a majority of commissioners Monday needed to agree on the maximum tax rate they would be willing to consider. A formal vote on the preliminary rate is scheduled for July 21. That proposed rate could still come down when commissioners take a final vote on the tax rate and proposed $4 million county budget in September.

For weeks, county commissioners have debated whether to cut spending deeper or boost tax rates to support county services.

"We are kind of walking around the deck of the Titanic here," Commission Chairman Jeff Koons said.

A coalition of business groups opposed boosting the property tax rate. The Business Forum of Palm Beach County in a letter to the commission called for deeper budget cuts instead of tax increases that "remove more dollars than absolutely necessary from local residents and businesses during this difficult economic time." More...

Monday, July 13, 2009

City's Budget Now Online


Sarasota, FL – The proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2009-10 is now available for review on the City of Sarasota website An icon on the right side of the homepage links you directly to an executive summary as well as the complete proposed budget.

A 30-minute television show devoted to the City’s financial state is also available City Manager Robert Bartolotta hosts “City Focus” and provides an overview of the proposed budget with Finance Director Chris Lyons. The program is also being shown regularly on Access Sarasota, the government access channel, Comcast channel 19 and Verizon channel 34.

Citizens will have an opportunity to provide input on the proposed budget Wed., July 15, 2009 at 6 pm in the Commission Chambers at City Hall, 1565 First Street. The public input session is being held prior to the City Commission’s budget workshops, when Commissioners begin the decision making process to establish the millage rate. There will be no formal staff presentation during the public input meeting.

The budget workshops will be held Tues. July 21st and Wed. July 22nd 8 am – 5 pm in the Commission Chambers. The workshops are open to the public; however, public input will not be permitted at that time. Public input on the proposed budget will be heard Wed., July 15th.

Budget Task Force Meets Wednesday

Sarasota County will hold another Budget Task Force Meeting on Wednesday, July 15, 6 - 9 p.m.

It will be in the "Think Tank," Third Floor, Administration Center, 1660 Ringling Blvd. Call 941-861-5438.

There will be a live webcast.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Counties throughout Florida have budget problems

Bay's budget problems common statewide

Comments 3 | Recommend 0

The factors combining to crunch Bay County’s 2010 budget are squeezing counties across the state.

Bay County Manager Ed Smith has worked in county management for the better part of 20 years, since taking a job as the public information officer for Marion County in 1987. He’s worked through boom-and-bust cycles before, when quickly rising or falling property values make it difficult for counties to guess how much ad valorem income there will be for the upcoming fiscal year.

But this latest cycle is unprecedented, he said.

“In terms of adjustment, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like this,” Smith said Monday.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

In Pinellas even the snakes aren't safe

The displays are being ripped out. There are gaping holes in the walls where they used to be. Only an aquarium remains in the center of the dismantled room, still featuring, for the moment, largemouth bass, Florida gar, bluegill and assorted other fish and turtles.

The signs on the wall give the explanation: Pinellas County budget cuts. ...

People often ask: What happened to ALL THAT MONEY that local governments in Florida raked in when property values were soaring?

Well, here's the answer: We took it back from them. The "runup" of those years has now been canceled out. More...

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Foreclosure rate increases dramatically over 2008

Delinquency rates up as well:

How bad as the foreclosure situation gotten in Sarasota? Things were twice as bad in May as they were in the same month a year ago.

According to First American Core Logic, a national provider of real estate ownership data, 7.9 percent of mortgaged properties in the Sarasota-Bradenton-Venice market were in foreclosure in May. In May 2008, that rate was 4.0 percent. More...

The mortgage delinquency rate in Sarasota was 12.9 percent in May 2009. The national average is 6.5 percent.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Rich County, Poor County

from the local paper:

Sarasota County is about to be designated an economic “recovery zone” because so many people have lost jobs and homes.

Considering this part of the Gulf Coast was one of the fastest-growing areas in the nation just three years ago, known for its waterfront mansions and wealthy socialites, the federal designation hardly seems possible. ...

The good news is that the U.S. Treasury will reimburse 45 percent of interest costs for local businesses and governments who borrow money in this new zone for job-creating projects. More...

Monday, July 6, 2009

An increasingly frequent news tale

Fees hiked in state, county

Cost of foreclosure, vehicle registration, driver's license among those to increase

Costs of foreclosures, car registrations and divorce on the rise.


Saturday, July 4, 2009

Communities bug out over cuts to mosquito control

Lee Chastant and fellow bug battlers across the Gulf of Mexico in Florida, up the East Coast in Connecticut and on the Great Plains of South Dakota are predicting a bumper crop of the always annoying and sometimes deadly pests. And even in places where dwindling tax revenues haven't forced mosquito control budget cuts, they're concerned about keeping up with the summer swarm.

"We're funded by county taxes, but by the end of last month, I'd blown through my whole chemical budget," said Chastant, a veteran mosquito fighter from Beaumont, Texas. "And we're just now hitting the mosquito season." more...

Tight budgets can't keep fireworks down

...despite well-documented budget issues facing local governments this year, dozens of other cities and organizations throughout South Florida will forge ahead with costly nighttime displays. MOre...

Property values plummet

Assessments are down, but smaller tax bills are hardly a given

The assessed value of all properties in Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte counties fell by a combined $20 billion last year, pushing the two-year drop in the area to an eye-popping $43 billion. More...

Friday, July 3, 2009

US states face budget meltdowns

By Steve Schifferes
Economics reporter, BBC News

Fireworks at the Arch, St Louis, Missouri
Fireworks traditionally mark US Independence Day

Fourth of July celebrations will take place across US cities and states on Saturday to celebrate American independence day. But they are likely to be subdued, with many cities cutting back or eliminating the elaborate firework displays that have been a key feature of the celebrations.

It is the latest sign of the fiscal crisis that is spreading across the nation as the recession has had a dramatic effect on state spending. more...


Sarasota, FL - City Commissioners would like to hear your comments about the proposed fiscal year 2009-10 budget prior to the budget workshops when the Commission will begin the decision making process to set the millage rate. A public comment session on the proposed budget will be held Wed., July 15, 2009 at 6 pm in the Commission Chambers at City Hall, 1565 First Street.

Citizens will be given three minutes to comment on the proposed budget. There will be no formal staff presentation.

The proposed budget, including an executive summary, will be posted on the City's website,, after 5pm on Thurs., July 9, 2009.

Jan Thornburg
City of Sarasota
Public Information Officer
941-650-9693 (Cell)
941-954-4113 (Fax)

Thursday, July 2, 2009


COCOA, Fla. — A year ago, the Brevard County Schools ran a robust summer program here, with dozens of schools bustling with teachers and some 14,000 children practicing multiplication, reading Harry Potter and studying Spanish verbs, all at no cost to parents. More...

Kevin Riddell for The New York Times

Seventh graders studying last week at Taylor Elementary

Financial Planning on the Agenda:

Tuesday, July 7, the Sarasota County Commission will address the following financial planning items:



To approve the standardized Tourist Development Cultural/Arts Grant Agreement for submittal to each Arts Grant Recipient for Fiscal Year (FY) 2009/2010 and to authorize the Chair to execute Grant Agreements to incorporate the approved Grant amounts and Grantee information.



To approve the Tourist Development Fiscal Year (FY) 2009/2010 Cultural/Arts Grant recommendations, in the amount of $1,198,643.00, as follows:


Art Center Sarasota, Inc., A Sizzling Season, in the amount of $17,029.00;


Artist Series of Sarasota, Musical Mosaics: Overture and Exit, in the amount of $11,312.00;


Asolo Center for the Performing Arts, Shoulder to Shoulder Project No. 1, in the amount of $81,554.00;


Asolo Center for the Performing Arts, Summer Season Project No. 2, in the amount of $13,176.00;


Banyon Theatre Company, Inc., 2010 Summer Season, in the amount of $6,657.00;


Circus Sarasota, Inc., Circus Sarasota Winter Production, in the amount of $47,712.00;


Coexistence, Inc., Embracing Our Differences, in the amount of $17,035.00;


Florida Studio Theatre, 2010 Sarasota Festival of New Plays, in the amount of $46,602.00;


Florida Studio Theatre, Summerfest 2010, in the amount of $45,631.00;


Florida State University/John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, From the Canals of Venice to the Big Top, in the amount of $93,205.00;


Gulf Coast Heritage Association, Inc., Historic Spanish Point, Heritage Holidays at Historic Spanish Point, in the amount of $15,307.00;


Jazz Club of Sarasota, Inc., 30th Annual Sarasota Jazz Festival, in the amount of $20,688.00;


Jazz Club of Sarasota, Inc., Big Band Bash, in the amount of $1,611.00;


Key Chorale, Inc., Living Music, The Composer’s Craft, in the amount of $8,438.00;


La Musica, Resolution, in the amount of $18,419.00;


PAL/Sailor Circus, 2009 Holiday Spectacular, in the amount of $12,483.00;


PAL/Sailor Circus, 61st Annual Spring Shows, in the amount of $11,373.00;


The Players, Inc., Broadway Theatre Series, in the amount of $27,961.00;


The Players, Inc., SNAP - Something New at Players, in the amount of $11,928.00;


The Players, Inc., Summer Sizzler Series, in the amount of $7,157.00;


Ringling School of Art and Design, Selby Gallery, 2009-2010 Exhibitions and Visiting Artists; in the amount of $18,863.00;


Sarasota Ballet of Florida, Inc., Downtown with the Sarasota Ballet, in the amount of $91,263.00;


Sarasota Film Festival, Inc., 12th Annual Sarasota Film Festival, in the amount of $82,525.00;


Sarasota Film Society, Inc., Cine-World Film Festival 2009, in the amount of $11,850.00;


Sarasota Opera Association, Inc., Fall Production: La Traviata, in the amount of $46,117.00;


Sarasota Opera Association, Inc., Opera Lovers' Weekend, in the amount of $42,719.00;


Sarasota Orchestra, Seeing Music - Shoulder Season 2009-2010, in the amount of $93,205.00;


Sarasota Season of Sculpture, Inc., Season Five, in the amount of $22,835.00;


Selby Botanical Gardens, MSBG Events for 2009-2010, in the amount of $82,525.00;


Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, World Class Entertainment, in the amount of $85,216.00;


Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, FridayFest on the Bay at the Van Wezel, in the amount of $7,406.00;


Venice Little Theatre, Inc., Tourism Through the Arts, Fall to Summer, in the amount of $88,350.00;


Westcoast Black Theater Troupe, 2009-2010 10th Anniversary Season, in the amount of $10,491.00.



To authorize advertisement of a public hearing to consider a proposed Ordinance, amending Ordinance No. 2004-078, as amended and codified in Section 122-34 of the County Code, to increase the Court Facilities Surcharge from $15.00 to $30.00, relating to non-criminal traffic infractions and certain criminal violations.




To approve expenditure from the Law Enforcement Trust Fund in the amount of $5,000 for the Youth Empowerment and Leadership Development Academy (YELDA) on the ground that the organization provides safe community activities in order to reduce juvenile crime and drug activity.


To adopt a Resolution, Budget Amendment No. 2009-050, amending the Sheriff's Fiscal Year (FY) 2009 Budget, to increase the revenues and expenditures of the Law Enforcement Trust Fund, in the amount of $5,000.



To authorize the disposal of vehicles and off-road equipment.



To authorize the conveyance of surplus property to other governmental agencies and charitable organizations, removal of property from the Fixed and Moveable Asset Detail Inventory System, and auction of surplus/obsolete property.