LONGBOAT KEY, Fla. -- Imagine one town being divided between two counties. The 9.8-mile-long barrier island of Longboat Key has its own government but is almost equally divided between Manatee and Sarasota counties, and has been for decades.
Longboat Key says the town isn’t equally taxed. Property taxes are nearly twice as much in Manatee County at 6.5 millage compared to Sarasota’s 3.3 millage.
Town of Longboat Key manager Dave Bullock told Sarasota County Commissioners they’d like to be in one county -- Sarasota.
“We think we have a compelling case,” said Bullock.
Bullock says those living on the Manatee County side pay $2.6 million more in property taxes than if they were living across the line on the Sarasota County side.
“Sarasota invests more in Longboat Key than Manatee,” Bullock told commissioners. “We think it’s fair to say we don’t get any additional services or that money and residents don’t get any additional service for that money.”
But not everyone is on board.
“We prefer Manatee County,” said Eva Cotterman. She and her husband Drew moved to Longboat Key’s Manatee side four years ago. They worry what change will bring.
"Sarasota gets water from the Sarasota side in Longboat Key on the south end," Drew Cotterman said. "We get water from Manatee. Is that going to change? I think it opens the door for changes that may be unwanted.”
The Cottermans don’t mind paying more property taxes and question just how much they’d save if Sarasota County included all of the key.
“How much more will taxes go down … a few bucks?” asked Drew.
According to Bullock’s presentation to Sarasota County commissioners, the savings in some cases would be “breathtaking.”
Taxes on a $500,720 home in Sarasota Count is 1,698.03. In Manatee it’s nearly double at $3,284.99. Even after Sarasota’s school and hospital taxes are added there’s still a savings of $764.28.
While the Cottermans are fine with the way the island is divided between the two counties, some homeowners on the Sarasota side say local leaders shouldn’t be the ones deciding.
“I think put it for a vote. Let the people of Longboat Key vote on it. If they want to be part of Sarasota they should be,” said Hein Rusen, lives in Sarasota County.
Harold Ronson has lived on Longboat Key for 40 years and says no one on the key should be bothered by the difference in property taxes
“People are pretty well secured who lived on Longboat Key; a few bucks one way or the other on taxes should not make them move,” he said.
Changing county boundaries isn't an easy process. It would require approval from Legislature and the governor. Longboat Key's town managers says they'll take the plan to their residents first.