MANATEE -- To help address funding issues, the Manatee County Commission voted Tuesday to establish a Citizens Financial Structure Advisory Board.
The committee, proposed by County Administrator Ed Hunzeker to look at how Manatee County government pays for itself, will be made up of 13 members and will only exist for five months.
Commissioners approved establishing a committee, 5-1, with Commissioner Robin DiSabatino dissenting and Commissioner Larry Bustle absent.
"We are looking out long term and, over the long term, if the current way we fund the government is appropriate, and are the funds to fund government appropriate?" Hunzeker said.
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The group will be supported through the Financial Management Department, he said.
The board would make recommendations to the board of county commissioners as to the best long-term combination of revenue sources to fund county services, programs and capital projects, according to agenda materials.
Each commissioner will appoint one board member who resides in their district. The other six members would come from organizations including the Manatee Chamber of Commerce, Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance, Black Chamber of Commerce, Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce, Gulf Coast Latin Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Bradenton Area Economic Development Agency.
As of now, there is no cost to taxpayers for the group, Hunzeker said.
County administrators will talk with the committee about how their respective departments pay for services and programs.
Over the years, Manatee County government has had a strong reliance on property taxes, Hunzeker said.
"Every once in awhile you have to look at what you do
and see if you are doing it right," he said. "See if that dependence on property taxes is the right mix to support ongoing programs in government. Do we have the right mix of revenues for the long haul?"
The county faces a potential deficit in 2018 when it is expected to exhaust the general portion of the budget stabilization reserve fund.
Commissioner Carol Whitmore said "it doesn't hurt to get a flavor from the whole community."
DiSabatino she the county doesn't need another board.
"That's why they hired (Hunzeker) and why you hired your team," she said. "We know what the options are and if we don't, we shouldn't be sitting here."
Commission Chairwoman Betsy Benac said: "If we had all the knowledge we needed to resolve this problem, we would have done so. We need the community to tell us what we want and how we need to fund it."
Commissioner Vanessa Baugh said the county is facing "a lot of issues and a lot of decisions we need to figure out."
"If we have a setting for them where they can feel comfortable about sharing their thoughts and feel they can come out, I am for it because I do want to know what the community as a whole wants," she said. "It really is up to the community because it is the community's taxpayer money."
Claire Aronson, Manatee County reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024. Follow her on Twitter @Claire_Aronson.