Manatee School Board, county commission hopefuls talk taxes, student achievement and more at Tiger Bay forum

Candidates for the Manatee County School Board and the Manatee County Commission were limited to either 30 seconds or one-word answers before a record attendance at the monthly Manatee Tiger Bay Club meeting Thursday.

The luncheon, and its rapid-fire format were designed to help voters before the upcoming Aug. 30 primary in Manatee County.

Tiger Bay President Ben Bakker called it the club’s “most ambitious endeavor to date.”

Manatee County Commission

With the qualifying period over, all four county commission seats are still up for grabs, although the District 3 seat is going straight to November because one candidate is Republican and the other two have no party affiliation. The commission has five geographic districts and two at-large seats.

Four of seven candidates on the August primary ballot participated in the event Thursday.

District 1 candidates included Republicans Priscilla Whisenant-Trace and Ron Reagan. District 1 candidate Corie Holmes, also a Republican, did not attend.

District 5 candidate Kathleen Grant, a Republican, attended but incumbent Republican Vanessa Baugh did not. At-large candidate Jack Richardson , an independent, participated but at-large GOP incumbent Besty Benac did not.

Mostly, the candidates agreed impact fees should be collected at the maximum rate, the land development code should be revised and homelessness is an issue officials must to look at.

On the proposed half-cent sales tax to benefit county projects

Whisenant-Trace: “I believe we need to do this for all of the projects we have that we need to do. I would go to the community leaders and say are these the ones you want and if not let’s prioritize them and make sure we get done what the citizens want done.”

Reagan: “I think it’s the most fair tax that we can possibly do, knowing that 25 to 32 percent of that tax is going to be paid for by nonresidents and people that visit here, generally during the winter.”

Richardson: “I am against the tax. Many of the projects we can self-fund without that additional revenue. There are several projects that obviously don’t belong on the list.”

Grant: “I think it’s a regressive tax and would hit the lowest-income people the most. I think there are alternative funding sources such as selling county owned property and looking again at the tourist development tax.”

Manatee County School Board

Two of three seats are still up for grabs. School board races are nonpartisan and open to voters throughout the county. Candidates must live in the district for which they are running.

John Colon will retain the District 5 seat after no one filed to run against him.

Five of the seven candidates for the remaining two seats participated.

District 1 candidates included Xtavia Bailey, Gina Messenger and Ed Viltz. District 1 candidate Linda Schaich did not attend.

District 3 candidates included Charlie Conoley and Misty Servia. District 3 incumbent Dave Miner did not attend.

Mostly, the candidates agreed education should be controlled at the local level, standardized testing should be less prominent and teacher pay should not be tied to student test scores.

On the strategy to improve student achievement

Servia: “We can have our kids be taught by our teachers.”

Bailey: “When he had more local control our kids were doing better.”

Messenger: “Right now, we’re losing our best teachers to counties nearby.”

Conoley: “You need to have a budget that works so you can attract and retain good teachers.”

Viltz: “We need to test for remediation, not for ranking.”

Meghin Delaney: 941-745-7081, @MeghinDelaney

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