Vol 7 No. 51 - September 12, 2007

 

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Galvano to propose new tax law

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Budget OK will mean higher taxes

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Humpback bridge to be raised

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Outside agency funding cut for trolley

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Second Rosa del Mar auction set

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Mote studies red tide effects on children

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Committee plans memorial to Lannon

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Commissioner under fire for meeting with McAdam

 

 

 

Galvano to propose new tax law

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

Rep. Bill Galvano of Bradenton plans to sponsor legislation to reform the way the state’s property appraisers are required to make their valuation determinations in waterfront communities.

After a meeting with Gov. Charlie Crist last week, Galvano said the governor sounded receptive to the idea of a new law changing the highest and best use standard of appraisal to one that reflects the current use of the property, such as an income standard.

The bill, which would benefit coastal residents, would keep Anna Maria Island taxpayers from paying taxes based on the value of their properties as if they were all condominiums, considered the highest and best use of the land.

The Anna Maria Island-based Coalition Against Runaway Taxation (CART) has long supported such a change, according to co-founder Don Schroder.

The bill could be introduced in the next special session when it is rescheduled, depending on whether the session strictly limits the subject matter to the state budget, or in the next regular session in spring 2008 at the latest, Galvano said.

Budget OK will mean higher taxes

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

The Manatee County School Board approved higher ad valorem property tax assessments on Monday night to fund its $761.4 million budget for 2007-08.
The board voted for 7.666 mils for the fiscal year budget and 1.208 mils for supplemental operating discretionary funds.

"If you raise the millage, you say, ‘We know you’re in pain and we don’t care.’ If you lower the millage, you share our pain," former county commission candidate Dr. Craig Trigueiro told the board prior to the vote. "Whatever happens, I hope the taxpayers all remember."

A property tax reform law passed by the Florida Legislature in June dictated budget cuts by municipalities including Manatee County and all three cities on Anna Maria Island, but school funding was not cut.

However, if a proposed Constitutional amendment passes on Jan. 29 replacing the existing "Save our Homes" homestead exemption with an alternative "super" homestead exemption, funding for schools - including Anna Maria Elementary School - would be affected.

The reduction would amount to $126 million over four years, according to Manatee County School Board Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Tim McGonegal.

That translates to reduced services, which presents a unique problem for school board members, who considered it Monday night.

The school board is required to comply with a state mandate to reduce class sizes, requiring more teachers to be hired, McGonegal said, blaming the increase in property tax assessments on the class size requirement.

"Everybody is for smaller class sizes," board Chairman Harry Kinnan said, adding that the difficulty lies in paying for more teacher’s salaries.

The state was supposed to generate the money to pay for class size reduction, but some funds come from ad valorem property taxes, said Superintendent of Schools Roger Dearing, adding that 450 teachers have been added to the payroll in the past three years. Teacher salaries also have been increased, ranking Manatee County sixth in the state last year, up from 14th in 2002.

Ernest "Sandy" Marshall, president of the Federation of Manatee County Community Associations, suggested streamlining departments, criticizing the school system for having "too many chiefs" who are "being paid too much," and also recommended discontinuing the policy of allowing employees to take home school vehicles.

Attorney David Miner criticized the school board for acquiring too much debt, saying, "This board should be prudent when it obligates future boards and future taxpayers to debt. I think that taxpayers deserve that much."

According to the 2007 Truth in Millage (TRIM) notices delivered to Manatee County property owners by the Manatee County Property Appraiser’s office this summer, the lion’s share of property taxes are paid to Manatee County, and a nearly equal amount is paid to public schools. The state sets a portion of the school millage that the county is required to levy, and the rest is levied by the county school board, Dearing said.

The remainder of property taxes is allocated among other taxing districts, including cities, water management districts, fire districts, mosquito control districts, navigation districts and other special districts.

Humpback bridge to be raised

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

CORTEZ – The humpback bridge on 127th Street West will be raised two to three feet to accommodate larger boats at a marina being built nearby, according to Manatee County.

The Naples-based developer of the Bradenton Boat Club, which is being built on the former site of C&C Marine, has obtained a permit for the work, said Wayne Roberts, Manatee County engineering division manager.

"It affects the incline," he said. "They will have to take the approaches out further."

The engineering plan is complete for the bridge, which is in front of the Seafood Shack restaurant, and work is expected to begin in April, he said. Construction dates are still being confirmed, according to John Cavoli of Cavoli Engineering Inc. in Sarasota.

The changes to the bridge were approved by the Manatee County Commission when the Bradenton Boat Club rackominium – dry boat storage with condominium ownership – was approved at 12123 Cortez Road W. in 2006, Roberts said.

It will offer 272 dry slips and 22 wet slips in three blue and tan buildings no more than 44 feet high. Operating hours will be from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. No liveaboards or overnight stays will be allowed, no alcohol or bait will be sold and restrooms will not be open to the public.

The restrictions were designed to address concerns that neighbors expressed at a community meeting about building height, increased boat and car traffic, pedestrian safety, manatee safety, forklift noise and environmental considerations.

 

Outside agency funding cut for trolley

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH – Commissioners approved the first reading of the 2007-08 budget that included 20 percent less in donations for outside agencies.

Mayor Rich Bohnenberger had made the suggestion to cut the funding so the city could contribute $8,000 to Manatee County in order to keep the Island trolley free for the next year. Each of the Island cities agreed to the same amount.

However, prior to the vote, Commissioner John Monetti questioned the plan.

"It was suggested that that would be where the money came from, but I don’t think there was any real discussion, and here it is," he said. "Perhaps we could explore other possibilities on where that money could come from."

Chair Sandy Haas-Martens said that when the mayor made the suggestion at a previous meeting, "We said to do it and that’s what we instructed City Treasurer Rick Ashley to do.

"It’s one-time shot and we have no idea what’s coming down in January. This was by far the safest place to take it and still have the same level of service that we were trying to continue."

Agencies respond

The Community Center received the biggest cut – $5,485 from the $27,300 designated for operations and $182 from $910 designated for the endowment trust.

"I’m kind of numb when it comes to money," Center Executive Director Pierrette Kelly said. "We built it into our budget and when something like this happens, it really hurts. When we lose donations, we end up having to pay for it.’

"We are trying to serve our community the best we can and are committed to doing our best to raise the money we need. If we create programs the community wants and charge a fair price and our community supports us, we’ll be able to sustain ourselves during these difficult times."

Most of the agencies that were cut do not depend on the city’s donations for their operations The AMI Historical Society’s funding was down $365 from the original $1,820 and the AMI Chamber’s was down $274 from the original $1,365.

"It’s worth it to keep the trolley free. It comes right to our door. At least we’ve getting something, and I’m happy for that," AMIHS Executive Administrator Sissy Quinn said.

Chamber President Mary Ann Brockman said, ‘It’s not in our bottom line. We don’t depend on it. The trolley is a nice thing to have free, and they had to take it from somewhere."

The other hard-hit agency was START (Solutions to Avoid Red Tide), which lost $1,097 from the designated $5,460.

"I’m disappointed to lose it, but I thank the Holmes Beach commissioners for their continued support in tough times," START President Ed Chiles said. "What they do for us is important. We got great support under Carol (former Mayor Carol Whitmore) and it’s nice to see it continue under Mayor Bohnenberger."

Commissioners approved the total budget of $8,470,017, down from $12,233,903 in 2006-07, and a millage rate of 1.589, down from 1.8 in 2006-07. The big difference in the two budgets is because the 2006-07 budget included $3.7 million for the Key Royale Bridge, which the state recently paid back to the city.

The second reading is set for Tuesday, Sept. 18, at 6:30 p.m.

 

Second Rosa del Mar auction set

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – Rosa del Mar will hit the auction block again this week, after a sealed bid auction on Sept. 7 failed to result in a buyer.

Potential buyers did not want to deal directly with GSR Development, said auction coordinator Barry Gould of Island Vacation Properties, adding that the number and identity of the bidders is confidential.

GSR principals Robert Byrne and Steven Noriega are reorganizing under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy code.

Creditor Horizon Bank is expected to take possession of the vacant, Gulffront property on Tuesday, Sept. 11, at a foreclosure sale at the Manatee County courthouse, Gould said, adding that a subsequent purchaser will buy directly from the bank.

GSR owes Horizon Bank $8.56 million on the property. The asking price for the Sept. 7 auction was $9.2 million.

Any subsequent purchase price and terms are subject to approval by the bank, which objected to the sale at a lower listing price, $8.85 million, saying it was inadequate to satisfy its debt plus Island Vacation Properties’ 6 percent commission.

The court also must approve the sale, Gould said.

The four parcels that make up the Rosa Del Mar property, 2508, 2510, 2512 and 2516 Gulf Drive N., were purchased in 2003 for $7.67 million according to the Manatee County Property Appraiser's Office.

 

Mote studies red tide effects on children

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

Mote Marine Laboratory is expanding its red tide health study to children.

The study, in its seventh year, already has shown that red tide causes upper respiratory irritation in susceptible adults, including coughs, watery eyes and scratchy throats and that symptoms subside when they leave the beach.

It also has shown that during red tides, more people went to hospital emergency rooms with respiratory illnesses like bronchitis, and most of those admitted to the emergency room were coastal residents.

"We’re just now getting a better understanding of how red tide toxins affect adults with asthma," said Dr. Barbara Kirkpatrick, manager of Mote’s Environmental Health Program. "Young children’s exposure levels may differ from adults, and may affect them when they get older. This is a really important piece of the red tide puzzle."

Using a robot created to mimic a child six to 12 months old, Mote research partner Dr. Stuart Shalat, of Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Jersey, will measure children’s exposure to red tide at the beach.

The Pre-toddler Inhalable Particulate Environmental Robot, or PIPER, previously has been used to measure children’s exposure to indoor air particles like dust.

Exposure to particulates can be two to four times higher for children at ground level than at adult height, and 100 times more when they are moving, as they do when playing in the sand, according to Shalat.

PIPER was tested at Siesta Key beach last weekend as part of a larger test on adult exposure levels during a period when no red tide was present.

Red tide occurs when a microscopic organism called Karenia brevis, which is always present in the Gulf of Mexico, undergoes a sudden population increase.

Besides affecting human respiratory function, red tide produces neurotoxins that kill fish, manatees, dolphins, sea turtles and water birds and causes shellfish poisoning.

Red tide plagued the Florida Gulf coast for 10 months in 2005. No red tide has affected the area so far this year.

 

 

Committee plans memorial to Lannon

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH – A committee consisting of Anna Maria Elementary School Principal Tom Levengood, teachers, business leaders and city officials has tentatively set Thursday, Oct. 18, to dedicate a memorial at the school and Friday, Oct. 19, to dedicate the skate park to Pete Lannon. It did not settle on what the memorial would consist of, but there were several suggestions.
Lannon, a Holmes Beach police officer and the school’s resource officer, died June 2 after battling pancreatic cancer.

The committee met last Friday at the school to discuss its options.

"I only met the man one time, but there was evidence of great respect for him from the community," Levengood said. "(Guidance Counselor) Cindi (Harrison) and I talked about what we could do and someone suggested naming the auditorium after him, but there had been prior discussion of naming it after long-time principal Jim Kronus."

It was pointed out, however, that the computer tech lab had already been named for Kronus. Fifth grade teacher Anne Kinnan suggested naming the art room after Lannon, since he was very artistic, especially with the Etch-A-Sketch, and had also helped her with her bulletin board displays.

There was another suggestion to name the school building after him. Levengood suggested naming the crosswalk after him with a bench and arbor near the crosswalk sporting a Superman emblem. Lannon was known as "Super Pete" after his cancer became known. There was another suggestion to name the walkway from the sidewalk to the entrance of the school Lannon’s Way. School SAC Committee Chairman Mike Pierce suggested a sign with an Etch-A-Sketch with Lannon’s Way sketched on it.

The group decided to hold a dinner during the dedication with proceeds to go toward covering the expense of the arbor and bench and the rest of the money toward a college fund for Lannon’s youngest son.

 

Commissioner under fire for meeting with McAdam

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – City Commissioner Bill Shearon came under fire from Mayor John Chappie last Thursday over whether Shearon had met with former building official Ed McAdam after McAdam resigned in March following a sexual harassment complaint by the city’s code enforcement officer.

Shearon initially denied talking with McAdam prior to Sept. 2, but then admitted having lunch with him at McAdams’s ranch east of Bradenton in April. He said, however, that they did not talk about city business at that lunch.

After Code Enforcement Official Gail Garneau filed the complaint in February, the city placed her and McAdam on administrative leave. According to several commissioners, they were all notified of the charge by city attorney Ricinda Perry, who told them not to talk about it with anybody.

The issue last week came as the city was reviewing the bill from Lewis, Longman and Walker, PA, for Perry’s service, some of which involved defending the city against a lawsuit filed by a local newspaper seeking official records regarding the sexual harassment complaint and its investigation by Perry.

During the commission meeting, Chappie questioned Shearon about an entry in Perry’s bill dated July 6 stating she had been visited by McAdam regarding a request for re-employment at the city at the suggestion of Commissioner Shearon. Chappie then asked if Shearon had met with McAdam following his resignation.

"As I stated in the record, I have not … talked to Mr. McAdam until Sept. 2nd, and I strongly object to your inference that I would lie or miscommunicate something as an elected official," Shearon said.

“And I find it very disturbing that the city attorney states this in writing without even communicating to me or asking what I said or what I didn’t say."

Chappie also said that on April 19, Shearon’s partner, Tjet Martin, told building permit clerk Judy Pruett that they had met with McAdam.

"I did not say I did not have conversation with Ed McAdam," Shearon said. "I did say I have not had conversations regarding any issue regarding the business of this city with Ed McAdam, period.

"Yes, I have been out to his farm and if I had talked to Ed, nothing about the business of this lawsuit per Ricinda Perry," Shearon said,

"She told me not to talk to anybody, or the rest of us not to talk with anybody. I have not done that, and that is for the record."

Later, Chappie said he had learned that Martin had asked Garneau a few weeks after the complaint was filed if there had been a misunderstanding in regard to the whole occurrence.

He said that he considered both Shearon and Martin public officials since he is legally blind and she helps him with his paperwork.

"Oh no, I have nothing to do with her," Shearon answered. "Tjet Martin is her own person. She is not my wife; she is not related to me.

"We live together, Mr. Mayor; she has her own rights, her own say and she does assist me," he added. "She is not part of this as an elected official."

Shearon has announced his intention to resign his seat and run for mayor. Chappie, who cannot run for mayor again due to term limits, has declared his intention to run for Shearon’s city commission seat in the Nov. 6 election.

 

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