BRADENTON -- The Bradenton City Council always had the final say in the finances of three city community redevelopment agencies.
This budget cycle has more significance because the agencies will be consolidated under city council authority in January as a single CRA board.
Most city council members attended the Bradenton Downtown Development Authority budget meeting Tuesday covering the Bradenton and 14th Street West CRAs. The council dug deeper into the budgets at its Wednesday workshop, when it also examined finances of the Central Community Redevelopment Agency, an individually operated entity in East Bradenton.
The DDA board will remain intact, with funding determined by the city council.
"Everyone has a better understanding of how this process is going to work now," said City Clerk Carl Callahan, referring to earlier perceptions the council pushed too hard and moved too fast on the transition.
Callahan summarized budget concerns for the Bradenton and 14th Street West CRAs.
Financing for the 14th Street
West CRA has been stagnant, with declining revenues just covering its debt. The 14th Street West CRA is the only area in the city with a drop in property value last year, estimated at 4.5 percent.
Elsewhere, the city benefited from mostly rising property values in the past three years, including a 7 percent rise this year.
Callahan said the 14th Street West CRA is essentially an infill area without any new construction to increase property values. The city hopes a proposal to develop the old Manatee Inns property will be a catalyst, drawing more development interest.
The CCRA posted a modest 1 percent rise in property values and its $1.08 million budget came under intense review, with Callahan saying neither CRA is "keeping up. The CCRA is nowhere close to the money we used to see years ago at about $6 million."
The CCRA invested a lot in big projects such as Norma Lloyd Park, Love Park improvements and the 13th Avenue Dream Center, including seed money to community agencies such as CareerEdge and Suncoast Capital. With most of its yearly funding going to debt service, the council targeted sustainability through next fiscal year.
Callahan said the CCRA took in more than it spent and technically has a $115,000 surplus, but carryover funds have to cover the first three months of the fiscal year. In reality, according to Ward 4 Councilman Bemis Smith, the CCRA has about $36,000 in revenue and a $5,000 contingency fund, which Callahan said "is a problem."
Some spending in the tentative budget includes the CCRA putting away $30,000 toward hiring a new economic development director when the city creates the department in the transition. Discussion has indicated the CRAs would help pay the salary, so the CCRA budgeted funds.
The CCRA also budgeted $45,000 for Suncoast Capital, which it stopped funding a few years ago. Callahan said the city initially funds those kind of agencies, as it did with Realize Bradenton at its inception, "but eventually they have to stand on their own."
In a budget with limited opportunities to address spending not tied to debt service, the council asked for more information on the CCRA intention before considering a line item veto to put more funds into the agency's discretionary spending.
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014.