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Date of Issue: March 01, 2007

Mayor meets civic association members

civic pic
Holmes Beach Mayor Rich Bohnenberger meets with members of the Holmes Beach Civic Association Feb. 24 at the Island Branch Library. Islander Photo: Lisa Neff

Municipal matters dominated Saturday morning conversation at the Island Branch Library, where the Holmes Beach mayor met with members of the Holmes Beach Civic Association.

The meeting Feb. 24 was the first of several planned chats involving Mayor Rich Bohnenberger and the civic group.

HBCA members took the opportunity to learn from the mayor about the workings of city hall.

Audience question: Which department oversees code enforcement? The mayor's answer: Public works.

Audience question: Who checks the lights during turtle nesting season? The mayor's answer: The code enforcement officer.

Audience question: Who oversees the hiring and firing of city employees? The mayor's answer: Depends on the employee. The matter may involve the mayor and a department head or, if the department head is the employee in question, the matter involves the mayor and the city commission.

Audience question: What can be done to help those on a fixed income with tax and insurance woes? The mayor's answer: The Florida tax situation is a taxing matter.

Bohnenberger began the morning talking about taxes and municipal budgets, asking audience members to take a hard look at a proposal from state GOP leaders in the Florida House and then join him in raising concerns.

The proposal involves spending caps for municipal governments, sales tax increases and property tax reductions and eliminations depending on whether real estate is homesteaded.

Bohnenberger called the concept a "train wreck," though to property owners it might sound like "pie in the sky."

If the proposal becomes reality, the mayor said Holmes Beach would face financial hardships and warned of the elimination of municipal funding for the Anna Maria Island Community Center and beautification projects and slowing down the rate of city-financed road work.

Bohnenberger recognized that property owners need relief. "We're leading the nation in foreclosures in the state of Florida," he said. "This is not a good thing."

But the fix can't be decided too quick, the mayor continued, adding that the Legislature meets for only two months, during which time lawmakers consider hundreds of bills.

"How can we get something good in 60 days?" the mayor said.

Bohnenberger suggested lawmakers review the estimated 600 exemptions to the state sales tax, examine the method for appraising property and re-evaluate a provision that allows a newly constructed home occupied on Jan. 2 to be tax-exempt until the next year.

The civic association meets again March 24 at 10:30 a.m. at the Island Branch Library in Holmes Beach.

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