April 19, 2014

Community Portrait

Sarasota County

| 1/1/2011
Downtown Venice
Downtown Venice [Photo: Bill Speer]

Quality of Life

Downtown

Beginning in the early 1990s, Sarasota’s downtown underwent a transformation that has made it one of the state’s most vibrant — there is a strong residential component along with Palm Avenue’s “Gallery Row,” the renovated Sarasota Opera House, a movie theater complex, restaurants and upscale shops.

Philanthropy

Like many Florida communities, Sarasota struggles with the divided philanthropic loyalties of its seasonal residents. Philanthropy, however, is a core part of the community. Among high-wealth individuals who make charitable donations, the average gift is more than $7,320. Among business owners who give, the average gift is more than $11,700. The county has two of Florida’s largest community foundations. The Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice, Florida’s largest community foundation with more than $250 million in assets, is one of Florida Trend’s Best Companies to Work For. Last year it awarded some $16.5 million in scholarships and grants in the areas of arts and culture, health and human services, education, civic affairs and the environment. The Community Foundation of Sarasota County has $113 million in assets and awarded more than $10 million in grants and scholarships in 2009. Numerous other foundations also contribute to the community’s philanthropic life. The Glasser Schoenbaum Human Services Center, for example, provides a rent-free home for 17 non-profit health and human services agencies.

Florida House Learning Center

The modernized cracker-style house was built in 1994 to demonstrate environmentally responsible construction and design and has provided a centerpiece for the area’s environmental consciousness.

Myakka River State Park

Once part of a ranch, Myakka River is one of the state’s largest and oldest, encompassing nearly 60 square miles of wetlands and woodlands.

Arts & Leisure

Asolo repertory theater
Asolo Repertory Theatre

The list of significant arts and cultural groups and venues in Sarasota is massive, including:

» John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art

» Circus Museum

» Sarasota Orchestra

» Sarasota Ballet

» Sarasota Opera

» Asolo Repertory Theatre

» Banyan Theater Co.

» Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall

» Sarasota Film Festival

» Sarasota Film Society Cine-World Festival

» Sarasota Music Festival

» The Ringling International Arts Festival

» FSU Ringling Center for the Performing Arts

» The Marie Selby Botanical Gardens features one of the best collections of orchids, bromeliads, lichens and other epiphytes in the world and is a leader in their study.

» The Baltimore Orioles conduct spring training at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota. The Pittsburgh Pirates train in nearby Bradenton.

Ringling Museum
Ringling Museum of Art

Taxes and Government

Sarasota County ranks 22nd in total taxes levied per capita. Since 2001, the county has been implementing a performance management system. In 2006, it received an award from the Florida City/County Managers Association for innovations in communications and technology.

Crime

Sarasota County, the state’s 14th most populous, ranked 21st in 2009 in crimes per 100,000 population.

Schools

76% of Sarasota County schools meet high standards in reading, 82% in math and 89% in writing. The district has received an A grade from the state every year since 2004 — one of only 13 counties to do so.

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