Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

County: Final Tax Payment Made | but City of Sarasota Officials Say a Final $4.5 Million Is Owed

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

County: Final Tax Payment Made | but City of Sarasota Officials Say a Final $4.5 Million Is Owed

Article excerpt

COMMUNITY REDEVELOPMENT AGENCY

SARASOTA COUNTY -- For Sarasota County and the city of Sarasota, the seemingly simple difference between 29 and 30 could be source of the next fight between the local governments.

At issue is whether the county owes one more payment -- projected at about $4.5 million -- to the city's downtown community redevelopment agency under the governments' 30-year agreement to establish and fund the program.

That agreement is set to expire this fall, and county officials have long said they will not continue to fund the agency or create new redevelopment districts when the agreement ends.

But city officials say that the county has only made 29 payments to the agency and is obligated to make a 30th in its upcoming 2017 budget to satisfy the terms of the agreement.

Not so, county leaders countered Tuesday.

In a letter to be sent to city leaders, County Administrator Tom Harmer wrote that "since at least 2003, it has always been the County's understanding and expectation" that the payments would end this year.

"This understanding and expectation is memorialized in several documents ... The backup material also clearly shows that no County or City deposit is projected for fiscal year 2017, or any subsequent years," he added.

Without discussion of the city's assertion, county commissioners unanimously agreed to send the letter denying any obligation for another payment to the program.

The county is focused on the 30-year time frame of the original agreement, and the city on the number of payments made.

The disconnect goes back to 1986. Through a series of votes from September through December of that year, each government agreed to forgo a certain increment of rising property tax value each in the targeted downtown area to set aside to pay for redevelopment projects.

Because the deal wasn't reached until late 1986, the first payments to the agency weren't made until after tax bills were issued in 1987. Since then, the county and city each have contributed 29 times to the agency, setting aside almost $122.6 million.

Although the 30 years is up in a few months, city officials contend the intent was to provide 30 years of funding and therefore the city and county should each contribute once more before ending the deal. …

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