Clean energy funds used to cover deficit

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SARASOTA--Outside city hall, Sarasota's commitment to the environment is clear. But inside the building Monday night, some were questioning that commitment.

"The clean energy fund this commission decided last week to end, is a symbolical issue," said one concerned citizen.

"Our funds, our tax dollars, which comprise our renewable energy fund, should not be used as a temporary fix in a problematic vessel," said another.

All options were on the table to keep the city's general fund in the black. That included dipping into the city's clean energy fund to help ease next year's deficit.

"It is a fiscal decision, it is not an environmental decision," said Mayor Suzanne Atwell, who voted in favor of the measure, saying it was a financially responsible decision.

"We need to keep the general fund intact and be fiscally prudent about how we fund that," said Atwell.

While there is currently no money in the clean energy fund, officials say it could generate more the one hundred thousand dollars this year, as a fee paid by every citizen on monthly FPL energy bills.

Concerned citizens though worry the decision may kill future green initiatives.

"I think that its going to be very difficult to push renewable energy and other green initiatives through city government at least for the foreseeable future," said Don Hall.

Mayor Atwell says she's committed to a green future for Sarasota, but wants to explore broader, private avenues by which to finance future projects.

"Let's look at foundations, lets look at corporate partnerships," said Atwell, "other communities all over the country are doing this in partnership with local organizations that seriously take clean energy programs and I think this is something that we can do."