TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Siesta Key is facing a new and different battle for independence after its failed attempt at going fully independent from the county government.
City commissioners in Sarasota will weigh if, and how, they should take over the island community of Siesta Key in an upcoming meeting – and if residents even support the move. The residents of the island have fought for independence from the Sarasota County government, but recent efforts to become independent through incorporation failed.
Early signs point to the island being split up on what to do next. At the commission meeting, residents of Siesta Key are expected to make their cases for or against becoming part of the City of Sarasota through a process known as annexation.
So, what is annexation, and what does it mean for Siesta Key if it gets voter approval?
What is annexation?
Annexation is when a municipality takes in an unincorporated territory and adopts it into their area of control by extending what’s called a local government boundary.
In Florida, a few steps have to happen to get that ball rolling. At least two public hearings have to be held for community members to weigh in, a nonemergency ordinance has to be filed by government leaders and, following the public meetings, a referendum vote must be held for the public to vote on the annexation.
If voters approve the expansion, the governing body – in this case the Sarasota City Commission – would then begin the process of merging the two areas. If a vote fails, the city wouldn’t be able to try again for two years, according to Florida law.
What would change?
For Siesta Key, the biggest changes would likely be to taxation and city or county services, and electoral processes, if Sarasota absorbs it.
That means property taxes and services like waste collection, law enforcement, emergency services and utility rates could change. City ordinances would also apply to the area where currently they do not, though there could be additional ordinances that would preserve the current regulations on Siesta Key.
As part of the city, Siesta Key would be within the Sarasota Police Department’s jurisdiction, so there might be some changes to how the department covers the area, compared to the current coverage by a combination of nearby agencies, including Sarasota PD, the Venice and Longboat Key police departments, and the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office.
When it comes to elections, should Siesta Key become part of the City of Sarasota, the city commission would have to figure out if they make it into its own district and add a seat to the commission, or if it is absorbed into multiple districts or one district that already exist. Additionally, Siesta Key voters would be able to take part in elections for the city such as voting for the mayor and city commissioners.
In terms of education, students would have access to Sarasota County schools that are already available to them. It is unlikely school options change, as the Sarasota County School District is the main educational body in the county, and there isn’t a smaller one for the City of Sarasota.