Make us your home page
Instagram

Citrus County shares Hernando's economic worries

Poor Citrus County.

The nuclear power plant in Crystal River is going away, taking millions in property tax revenue with it.

What's left of the tax base is too tied up in housing stock, and the value of that is still falling, partly because the county is so far from any major metropolitan area. And even if it does go up again, the yo-yo pattern of real estate values means it will eventually plunge.

Yes, I feel bad for Citrus folks as they try to survive their own miniature nuclear apocalypse.

Because now they're just like us here in Hernando.

For a long time Citrus was a puzzle to me.

Look at people as they roll up to convenience stores in Floral City and Lecanto — look at their clothes and their cars — and you wouldn't think they're any better educated or prosperous than the average Hernando County resident.

Yet Citrus County's public facilities are straight out of pre-austerity Europe: beautiful parks; one public pool run by the county, another by the city of Inverness; new, well-stocked libraries; a school district that has received an A rating from the state every year since 2004.

And U.S. Census Bureau figures taught me what I should have already known — not to judge based on looks. Both the average family income and the percentage of residents with at least a bachelor's degree are, in fact, slightly higher in Citrus than in Hernando.

That helps explain why Citrus also has better private amenities, especially when you compare downtown Brooksville to downtown Inverness, where there is seemingly plenty of demand for bars serving cocktails and craft beers, as well as an Italian bakery that transforms into a acclaimed, full-service restaurant on Friday and Saturday nights.

Yes, I had always been determined to find out what Citrus had that we didn't have, when Times staffer and longtime Homosassa resident Barb Behrendt summed it up for me in two words:

"Nuclear plant."

That was months ago. Now, Duke Energy's announcement that it will close the plant is proving how right she was.

The closure will mean the loss of 800 power company and contractor jobs — the kind of jobs that can finance cocktails and multi-course Italian meals and retain residents who demand top-flight schools and parks.

Take away the plant, figure in the continued slide in property values, and the county is left with a $14.5 million hole in its budget. Because the county has already cut more than $20 million from its general fund since 2008 — along with 106 jobs — it doesn't have a lot more room for reduction.

I know. You've heard enough of this sort of thing from your own county. You don't need to hear it from another.

So, it's enough to say there's no way Citrus can trim its way out of this fix. It will have to raise taxes or add new forms of taxes. It just plain has no choice.

County leaders are so desperate to get that message out to residents that on Thursday several of them came down to the Times office in Hernando, even though the paper hasn't covered their county for six years.

At first, hearing their desperate tale of shortfalls, of heavy dependence on housing, of scrambling to bring in industry, I thought they could learn a lot from Hernando. We've been there for a while.

But then I heard commission Chairman Joe Meek — a Republican, a builder! — talk about the need to keep up Citrus' public assets.

No county can afford to look as if it's in decline, he said. If public investment dries up, private investment will, too.

"We have a unique and special community … and we're dedicated to making sure our quality of life stays high," Meek said.

Listen to him, please. Because Citrus is just like us.

Citrus County shares Hernando's economic worries 02/23/13 [Last modified: Saturday, February 23, 2013 12:17pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Equifax CEO Richard Smith steps down amid hacking scandal

    Personal Finance

    The chief executive of Equifax, the troubled credit reporting agency that suffered a massive data breach that affected as many as 143 million people, will retire, effective Tuesday, according to a statement by the company.

    Richard Smith, chief executive of Equifax, the troubled credit reporting agency that suffered a massive data breach that affected as many as 143 million people, will reportedly retire effective Tuesday.
[File photo: Joey Ivansco/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP]
  2. Bass Pro acquires Cabela's for $4 billion

    Retail

    Bass Pro Shops has acquired competitor Cabela's for a reported $4 billion. Bass Pro indicated it is seeking to appeal to all "outdoor enthusiasts" with the move, roping in hunting customers from Cabela's.

    Bass Pro Shops acquired Cabela's for $4 billion, Bass Pro announced Tuesday. | [JAMES BORCHUCK | Times]
  3. Tampa International named among least expensive airports

    News

    TAMPA — Florida airports apparently have a knack for getting it done cheaply.

    According to RewardExpert, Tampa International Airport is the fifth least expensive domestic airport. 
[CHARLIE KAIJO   |   Times
 file photo]

  4. Tampa-based vXchnge secures $200M loan to expand operations

    Corporate

    TAMPA — Tampa-based vXchnge, which operates data centers in 14 metro areas, has secured a loan for roughly $200 million for "major expansions and enhancements."

    Tampa-based vXchnge, a data center provider, secured a $200 million loan. Pictured is CEO Keith Olsen. | [Courtesy of vXchnge]
  5. Allegiant flight makes emergency landing in California after smoke fills cabin

    Airlines

    FRESNO, Calif. — Smoke filled the cabin of an Allegiant Air jet after it landed at a California airport on Monday, forcing coughing passengers to cover their faces with shirts and firefighters to board the plane, authorities said.

    This frame from mobile phone video shows smoke inside an Allegiant Air jet after it landed at Fresno Yosemite International Airport in California's Central Valley, Monday, Sept. 25, 2017. Smoke filled the cabin of an Allegiant Air jet after it landed at the airport on Monday, forcing coughing passengers to cover their faces with shirts and firefighters to board the plane, authorities said. Allegiant said no passengers or any of the six crew members were injured. [Estevan Moreno via AP]