New park, street paving among items targeted for sales tax

A new waterside park for the Ballard Park neighborhood has been in the works for years. Half cent sales tax dollars may finally push the project to conclusion.
A new waterside park for the Ballard Park neighborhood has been in the works for years. Half cent sales tax dollars may finally push the project to conclusion. Bradenton Herald file photo

With about $2.2 million expected to flow into city coffers from the first six months of a new half-cent sales tax, city officials are gearing up to spend that money as soon as possible.

City Administrator Carl Callahan said an exact amount for each of the proposed areas targeted for spending has not been finalized, but the city council on Wednesday approved “estimated expenditures” in order to create a budget line for that spending when funds become available.

“They don’t have to be final, and the council can move those funds around as needed,” Callahan said. “The important thing is that these items are all consistent with our policy in how they can be used.”

The sales tax was approved by Manatee County voters in November.

Of the $2.2 million that will become available for the city this fiscal year, which is only half of what the city expects in the next fiscal year, $600,000 is being projected to be spent on the city’s street paving program.

With recent boosts in funding into that program, the new funds will bring total spending on paving city roads to about $2 million a year. Jim McClellan, public works director, said his latest five-year paving plan was created on the assumption of spending about $1 million a year.

“So this will let us move forward with several items that would have waited a couple of years into this year’s realm of operations,” he said.

McLellan said it would take about $22.5 million to repave every street in the city.

“We were way behind, so that percentage will help us make significant inroads,” he said.

Ballard Park improvements

A new park across from Ballard Park Elementary School, as part of a neighborhood redevelopment effort, has been in the works for years. The city has made progress with demolishing dilapidated houses and preparing those lots for redevelopment.

At the heart of the project is the new park, and up to $300,000 from the sales tax will spark the development of a new park that will feature several amenities, including a kayak launch into Ware’s Creek and a community garden.

“The improvements have been sitting out for there some time as we waited for final costs,” Callahan said. “We can get moving forward with that without having to use impact fees and the sale of the properties for the new homes will go back into the impact fund. We still don’t know what the final costs will be, but we’ll have that money budgeted to move forward quickly.”

Other targeted spending areas include an undetermined amount of money for improvements at the city’s shuffleboard courts. Callahan said the shuffleboard board of directors also has raised capital and the combination of spending “will bring those courts up to current standards. We’ve asked Realize Bradenton to spearhead improvement plans and bring that back to us.”

Callahan said up to $500,000 of sales tax revenue may be needed to replace the roof at city hall. Another $200,000 is being targeted for new patrol vehicles for the Bradenton Police Department, Any remaining funds would be set aside for property acquisitions related to future parks.