Panama City Beach and Bay County officials sit down to talk CRA

Local News

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) — Back in September, the Panama City Beach City Council extended its Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) plan through 2049.

The 17-year extension came after the Bay County Commission asked the city to delay their vote until they could talk funds.

Each fiscal year, the county writes Panama City Beach a check for millions to go towards the CRA.

On Thursday, all of the elected officials gathered for a joint meeting inside Panama City Beach City Hall to talk about what can be done moving forward.

The CRA was established in 2002 and created to improve and upgrade Front Beach Road and other surrounding roads.

CRA Plans

“We want the CRA to be successful. We want them to be able to complete the project but we just want it to be mutually beneficial to the properties in the CRA but also the ones throughout the county that are not,” said Bay County Manager Bob Majka.

County Chairman Philip ‘Griff’ Griffitts agrees, the costs of the CRA shouldn’t increase the cost for the citizens.

“We want the CRA to be completed. We want it to look as best as we can and it’s a great product for the beach and the county as a whole but it can’t be a burden on such that we have to tax the citizens of Bay County more to pay for the CRA,” Griffitts said.

The meeting on Thursday gave all the area leaders a chance to get to some common ground and make a joint plan for the future.

“We just needed to understand the county’s needs were and the county didn’t quite understand where we were going with the things we were hoping to do with the CRA and once we met, we both saw we both really have common directions,” said Panama City Beach City Manager Mario Gisbert.

Currently, the council receives a property tax from residents of Panama City Beach. The city itself does not have a property tax so they collect what is called a TIF.

“In 2001, those property value numbers went hard and we started getting the difference. A TIF is Tax Increment Financing and it’s the difference of the property value at that time to now. The difference between the two values, the city gets. What it was at the time, the county still gets. So they didn’t lose any money. We just gained the value it went up,” said Panama City Beach Mayor Mike Thomas.

As the county recovers from Hurricane Michael, the county commission was hoping to lessen the amount of money they give for the CRA each year but that can only be done when the projects are complete.

“We hope to be able to build our model so that it can incorporate the county’s needs as well as our needs at the same time,” Gisbert said.

At the end of the meeting, the groups agreed high-level staff will meet once a year to make sure the funds allocated work for both the county and the city.

The budget for the fiscal year 2020 is already in place.

The CRA is currently finishing up segment two of work and will begin segment three in 2020.

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