Interior of one of the men's dormitories at KOTS, the City of Key West homeless shelter on Stock Island, photographed September 2019. JOHN TEETS/Contributed

With two unanimous votes at a Sept. 21 meeting, Key West officials decided not to raise property taxes and selected a new management team for the city’s homeless shelter on College Road. 

The final approved tax rate for the coming year equates to $2.08 per $1,000 of assessed property value, which will bring in the same amount of property tax revenue as last year despite severe expenses and revenue losses due to COVID-19.

By leaving some positions vacant, providing no pay raises and lowering the amount of emergency reserve funds, the city was able to avoid a tax hike, spokeswoman Alyson Crean said.

Early in the budgeting process, the commission had discussed a 3% tax hike, but serious belt-tightening in all departments dodged that budget bullet.

“Generally, the budget contains enough reserve funding to keep city services operating for 72 to 92 days during an emergency. In the budget that begins Oct. 1, the city has provided 56 days of reserve funding,” Crean said.

Also at the Sept. 21 meeting, officials voted to enter a three-year agreement with Cornerstone Resource Alliance Inc. to manage the homeless shelter. The previous management organization – Southernmost Homeless Assistance League – operated the shelter for several years. In July, the city and SHAL agreed their tenure would conclude at the end of September, Crean said.

Two organizations were vying for the new management contract and a selection committee rated Cornerstone higher.  Adding continuity to the contract, Elicia Pintabona, who has served as executive director of the shelter for several years, will continue in that role with the new company, Crean said.

“This allows me to continue my mission in this community with our clients and staff and the community we serve,” Pintabona told the commission.

She noted that Cornerstone’s seven-person board is a knowledgeable group that includes an attorney, a grant writer and a philanthropist with experience building successful homeless shelters and other forms of affordable housing. 

Pintabona told the commissioners she expects to see positive change under Cornerstone as it strives to create a new facility. The new shelter, which has already been designed, will fit in the footprint of the existing shelter on Stock Island under an agreement with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office. 

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