County’s budget includes about $19 million for Siesta projects; Sandfest is set for Nov. 6; and Safe Treats will mark its 29th year
Sarasota County Commissioner Al Maio put the county’s 2016 fiscal year budget in the spotlight during this month’s meeting of the Siesta Key Association (SKA), including projects estimated at almost $19 million that will directly affect the Key.
First, Maio provided an overview of the $1,091,803,496 budget, pointing out that the total is down about 5 percent compared to FY 2015. The county’s reserve funds add up to about $150 million, he said, and the county has saved about $69 million thanks to recent debt restructuring. “Now that’s pretty staggering,” he noted of the latter amount. Debt service payments are down almost 60 percent year-over-year, he added. “Everybody [on staff] watches your money, our money, extremely closely.”
Siesta Key is a “donor” part of the county, Maio continued, meaning it generally contributes more revenue to the county than it receives in return. For example, he said, Siesta and the city of Sarasota “run neck and neck” in their annual collections of Tourist Development Tax (TDT) revenue.
(The latest figures from the Sarasota County Tax Collector’s Office — as of Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year — show Siesta Key topping the city with 32.16 percent of total TDT revenue brought in for the 2015 fiscal year. The amount was $5,864,933.67. For the city, the figure was $5,297,043.59, or 29.05 percent of the total. Altogether, through the end of September, TDT collections were up $1,936,406.30 over the amount brought in during the previous fiscal year. The FY 2015 total was $18,234,675.14.)
(It is possible all those numbers could change a bit, as some entities that collect the tax provide estimates to meet the reporting deadline for the Tax Collector’s Office and then turn in final figures later, the office’s staff has explained to me in years past.)
Further, Maio said during the Oct. 1 SKA meeting, Siesta contributes 10.7 percent of the county’s gross ad valorem tax revenue, and the assessed value of all the island’s property is $46.5 billion. “I couldn’t have guessed that number,” Maio added of the latter figure.
The county’s current millage rate of 3.39 — unchanged since FY 2013 — was the second lowest in the state last year, Maio added.
Among upcoming county expenses for Siesta Key, Maio continued, the beach renourishment project for the south end of the island is still expected to begin in mid-January 2016. “We have cleared all the hurdles” necessary for the issuance of the permit from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), he added.
Concerns about the impact of the project on migratory birds known as red knots, as well as on beach-nesting turtles on that part of the island, held up the process, Maio noted.
That $15.4 million undertaking will be the first renourishment of 2.1 miles of beach on south Siesta Key since 2007. In an April 18, 2014 letter to FDEP, Humiston & Moore Engineers, the firm acting as the county’s consultant on the project, explained that the prior renourishment placed about 922,000 cubic yards of sand in the project area. This second phase, the letter says, calls for about 700,000 cubic yards of sand. Most of the fill put on the beach in 2007 had eroded after five years, the letter adds.
Sand will be removed from three offshore borrow areas for this project, the application notes.
Among other capital improvement projects for Siesta in the FY 2016 budget are the replacement of large water meters for residences and commercial properties at a cost of about $900,000 and the laying of a sewer force main under the Intracoastal Waterway, at an expense of $2,405,000. The force main will transport sewage from the island to the Central County Water Reclamation Facility, which will be located on Palmer Ranch, Maio said.
The new wastewater treatment plant will cost about $12.3 million, Maio pointed out, down from the original estimate of $17 million. The force main and the plant are part of the effort to take the Siesta Key sewer plant offline by October 2017, Maio explained, to comply with a state order.
The Siesta structure will remain, he added, but it will be enclosed in a brand new building, “’cause you still need a master lift station to push everything down the line.”
A flyer Maio provided to SKA members also showed the FY 2016 budget of $178,159 for the Siesta Key Village Public Improvement District, which encompasses all the property assessed to pay for the Village’s upkeep. The following line items are part of that budget:
- Maintenance contract with Buccaneer Landscape Management of Pinellas County: $130,000.
- Handling of damage in the Village and restoration of items: $13,000.
- Irrigation contract: $6,000.
- Garbage pickup: $6,000.
- Water service: $6,000.
One of the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce’s biggest annual fundraisers is Sandfest. This year’s event, featuring the theme Pirates Invasion, will be held from 6 to 10 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 6, at Siesta Public Beach. As the Chamber’s flyer points out, dinner, dancing, a live auction and even a “pirate ship” will be among the attractions. The flyer adds, “Avast ye need to RSVP while tickets last.”
Tickets are $30 for members and $35 for those who do not belong to the chamber, Russell Matthes, co-owner of the Daiquiri Deck restaurants, told members of the Siesta Key Village Association (SKVA) at their Oct. 6 meeting.
To purchase tickets, visit the Chamber’s website, call 349-3800 or visit the office in Davidson’s Plaza on Ocean Boulevard in Siesta Village.
Although the event normally is held at the beach pavilion, because of ongoing construction, Matthes noted, Sandfest this year will be in the vicinity of the new playground at the beach.
The fundraiser’s proceeds go toward the annual July Fourth fireworks show at the beach.
Preparations also are under way for Siesta Village to host Safe Treats on Halloween. This will be the 29th anniversary of the free event, during which businesses provide a safe venue for youngsters to trick-or-treat.
The hours will be 3 to 6 p.m. on Oct. 31.
Participating shops and eateries will display orange-and-black balloons and flyers in their windows, the SKVA website notes.
During the Oct. 6 SKVA meeting, Russell Matthes encouraged businesses to make plans to participate.