Thursday, May 24, 2018
News Roundup

Funding urged for environmentally sensitive lands in Hernando

BROOKSVILLE — The committee guiding Hernando County's environmentally sensitive lands program used a PowerPoint and a pitch Tuesday to remind the County Commission why the program is important and to seek restoration of funding.

Committee chairman Gene Kelly outlined the parcels of property the program has overseen and talked about partners that have assisted in acquisitions over the years.

Kelly noted that renewed funding for the program is important because it has taken on more responsibilities as the county's budget has shrunk. Various parks are now under the program's umbrella, and though maintenance of properties is one ongoing cost, equally important, Kelly said, is to continue buying parcels that provide links with existing land in public ownership.

Several years ago, the one-tenth of 1 mill property tax that voters agreed to pay in 1988 was diverted to another purpose. Kelly said the committee would like to see a reinstatement of the tax for sensitive lands, or possibly using a piece of the proposed Penny for Projects sales tax, as some communities have done. Another option, he said, would be funding through the general fund.

Commissioners showed little interest in any of the options.

Commissioner Diane Rowden suggested that the county could consider putting the question on the ballot again in a future election. Commission Chairman Wayne Dukes invited her to put the issue on a future commission agenda.

Committee member George Foster urged immediate action.

"Land prices,'' Foster said, "are as low as they've been in decades.''

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