Wednesday, June 18, 2008

BCCLT Awarded Withheld Funds

David Lybrand provides the instant summary of last night's City Commission meeting during which the Commission, in an unexpected unanimous 6-0 vote (Commissioner Kolhage absent),agreed  to honor commitments made to the Bahama Conch Community Land Trust almost ten years ago, and which then were broken by a succession of Commissions.

The Key West Citizen has the story by Mandy Bolen front-paged today.

It was all Sturm und Drang for a while, but in the end, after a brief scare that the resolution would be tabled for "more study", the residents of Bahama Village and their supporters prevailed.

The money, $455,000, will be used by the Land Trust to pay off loans that were required to continue operations during the years that funds were being withheld. The money comes from a surtax on properties in Bahama Village and must be used for purposes related to that area only. The TIF (Tax Increment Fund) generates almost $900,000 per year.  It carries a balance of $1,200,000 at present.  The majority of the expenses paid from the fund have been to the Community Policing Initiative, essentially a transfer to the Police Department budget for police services, mostly salaries and benefits.

Beginning in the 2004-2005 budget year, transfers to KWPD for salaries and benefits have been:  $349,000, $363,000, $371,000.  The projected amount for 2007-2008 is $$330,000.  The total for the four years is $1,430,000.  

The City's Finance Director answered a question from the Commission by citing a figure of $250,000 a year, but those are direct costs only.

When does an initiative stop being an initiative and become just another budget item?  Does any other part of Key West pay "extra" for police protection?  Since the Duval Street "entertainment" district requires more intensive police presence than others, should there be a special tax imposed on properties there?  No, the KWPD should operate wherever it needs to and the expenses for those operations should be a part of the KWPD budget.

TIF funds are intended primarily for community redevelopment, for "bricks and mortar" projects that will benefit the people who are paying the additional tax.

As a member of the Board of Directors of the BCCLT for the past four years, I'm proud of the organization and what it has been able to do despite the shabby treatment it was given.  My thanks and the thanks of all of the members of BCCLT go to this Commission for recognizing the "rightness" of making this contribution to secure the preservation of affordable housing, job opportunity and history of an historic part of old Key West.

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