Consolidation expert says Bradenton Beach receives, spends the most on its residents
Consolidation expert Harry Hayes of the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia said that among the three Island cities, Bradenton Beach gets the most revenue per capita on its residents and also spends the most, despite having the lowest population.
Hayes was asked by The Islander to review the budgets of all three Island cities for areas of potential savings through consolidation. Hayes said he and his staff based their conclusions solely on the budget materials provided,
In fiscal year 2002-03, said Hayes, Bradenton Beach had a per capita revenue of $1,626 compared with just $795 in Holmes Beach. During the same year, Bradenton Beach spent on average $1,308 per citizen, while Anna Maria spent $925 and Holmes Beach $734.
Further, said Hayes, "Bradenton Beach offers culture and recreation services while Holmes Beach and Anna Maria do not." This would merit "special consideration if the cities were to consolidate."
Other financial matters that a consolidation feasibility study would examine, said Hayes, are the levels of long-term liabilities, fixed assets, pension plans and funds, and employee benefits of each city.
Hayes said that although his budget review found "several important issues" that would have to be resolved in consolidation, none appeared to be "insurmountable." But he admitted his review was based exclusively on budget documents, not interviews with city staff.
"The materials we reviewed gave us a sufficient picture to conclude that the issue of tri-city consolidation may be worth further exploration. Other issues may be identified which present insurmountable obstacles to consolidation, but it is only through an impartial and detailed assessment that the cities would be able to know whether consolidation is possible," he added.
Hayes recommended a scope of work for a consolidation feasibility study that would analyze economic resources, review local ordinances and interview public officials, among other procedures.
But Hayes' preliminary efforts may have been wasted.
The Anna Maria City Commission voted last week not to allow the city electorate the chance to vote in a non-binding referendum on whether or not they want the commission to explore the possibility of a feasibility study on consolidation.
The Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach city commissions, however, have chosen to have the consolidation "opinion" question on the Nov. 8 ballot.
It's likely a moot point. As one Anna Maria resident opposed to even allowing the public to express its opinion said, "Let Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach consolidate. We don't want it."