By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer
HOLMES BEACH – Commissioners last week approved $8,000 from the 2007-08 budget for the Island trolley.
Manatee County Commissioners had asked the Island cities to contribute $50,000 toward the trolley in order to keep it free of charge for passengers – $8,000 from each of the three cities and $26,000 from the Tourist Development Council (TDC).
"I want to remind the commission that the budget is designed to protect the level of service," Mayor Rich Bohnenberger stressed. "There’s a lot of uncertainty because, as you know, there’s a special session coming up on Sept. 10 because the state is $1 billion, $150 million short in anticipated sales tax revenues. This means our revenue sharing will be less than we anticipated."
"We’re also down two police officers and two public works employees. The uncertainty of what’s going to occur in January with the Constitutional amendment is also hanging over our heads."
He recommended that the commission cut outside agency funding by 21 percent, which would give them the $8,000.
"We need to work with it for a year," Chairman Sandy Haas-Martens said. "I’ve had people who are not business owners and don’t always ride the trolley call me and say, ‘We want you to go for it.’ It’s for one year."
Commissioner David Zaccagnino said the city "should step up to the plate. This will buy Carol (County Commissioner Carol Whitmore) and the county commission a year to get their act together and figure something else out."
The others agreed.
A letter to the mayor from the AMI Chamber of Commerce pointed out that in 2006-07, the trolley carried more than 600 bicycles and 25 to 30 wheelchairs per month and more than 398,000 passengers.
At its meeting on Aug. the TDC voted to recommend spending $26,000 in tourism funds for the trolley. The TDC only can make a recommendation to the county commission. The cities of Anna Maria and Bradenton Beach also approved the trolley funds.