Atwell re-elected mayor

The Sarasota City Commission in session May 11. Photo by Norman Schimmel

By a 3-2 vote May 11, Suzanne Atwell was elected to a second term as the mayor of Sarasota.

Willie Shaw was elected vice mayor unanimously.

The city commissioners vote among themselves for the office of mayor and vice mayor.  The terms are for one year.

Commissioner Paul Caragiulo nominated Atwell for her second term. Shaw nominated Commissioner Terry Turner for mayor. The swing vote for Atwell was Commissioner Shannon Snyder.

Prior to the election, Atwell orally delivered the “State of the City” statement. Previous “State of the City” addresses were on video. She said the city “is facing unprecedented times and has financial challenges it must meet.”

She cited a decline of 27.5 percent in property tax revenue and a drop of 29.5 percent in sales tax collections over the past five years. Meanwhile, the unfunded pension liabilities and post-employment benefits such as health care have a price tag estimated between $270 million to $400 million, she said.

“The City Commission will have to make some tough decisions,” she said.

“We need a balanced approach to balance the budget,” said Atwell. “A combination of spending reductions, evaluating additional modifications to the pension programs, utilizing revenue stabilization funds, as well as a millage increase. Now is the time to be introspective and have a frank discussion about why the City of Sarasota exists, its purpose.”

Earlier in the day, Caragiulo and Snyder told a Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce committee to anticipate a property tax increase in the next fiscal year. Caragiulo said Sarasota’s tax rate is close to the lowest in the state, 43rd of 45 cities of similar size.