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Date of Issue: September 14, 2006

'Buy our own school' says LBK town commissioner

Longboat Key Town Commissioner Jeremy Whatmough has long believed that his town - at least the Manatee County portion - pays an unfair share of the budgets for both Manatee County and the Manatee County School Board.

Following a story in the Sept. 6 Islander about the proportion of taxes that Longboat Key pays to the school board board compared with the number of public school students that live in the town, Whatmough cried foul.

Longboat Key property owners living in Manatee County will shell out $13.8 million in taxes to support the school board's 2006-07 budget, yet just 58 public school students - slightly more than 1/10 of 1 percent of the county's 43,140 public school enrollment - live in Longboat Key.

"That's $238,000 per student in our town," exclaimed Whatmough. At those figures, "Longboat Key could buy its own school," he added.

"It's just another reason why we and Anna Maria Island should seriously consider forming our own county. We don't get a fair return on our taxes. It's not even close and it's only going to get worse," the longtime town commissioner said.

"At that cost, we could send our kids to Switzerland for all their schooling and have money left over," he joked. Maybe it wasn't a joke.

By comparison, Anna Maria Island taxpayers fare considerably better than their Longboat Key counterparts when it comes to paying their "fair share" of public education.

 Residents in all three Island cities will pay a collective $23.4 million toward the school board's 2006-07 budget.

With 493 students from the Island in the Manatee County public school system, Island property owners will pay an average of $47,494 for each Island student, or just about the cost of one year at a private boarding school in Switzerland.

While the $47,494 average for Island taxpayers is relatively "better" than the Longboat Key average, it pales in comparison with the countywide average of $5,164 paid in property taxes for every public school student.

It's enough to call for tax reform, said Whatmough. "The school board doesn't pay any attention to us during the year, but they sure like us at tax time. I hope they at least send us a Christmas card at least thanking us for our contribution."

Indeed.