BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County Commission has approved its 2017-18 spending plan with a price tag of $452.9 million and a slightly higher property tax rate.
The general fund budget for the new fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, ended up at $119.9 million, compared to last year's $103.6 million.
The tax rate for the general fund will be 6.8912 mills, or $6.89 in property tax per $1,000 in appraised taxable property value, a slight decrease from last year's rate. But the county also added a new half-mill tax to help pull Hernando County Fire Rescue out of financial trouble. The two millage changes combined amount to a .4 mill increase, which is 40 cents in tax per $1,000 in appraised taxable property value.
The increase will be larger for residents whose homes have increased in value over the past year. Countywide, officials are expecting $3.7 million more in tax revenue because of increased property values.
The only public comment during Tuesday evening's final budget hearing came from former planning commissioner Anthony Palmieri, who had been pushing the County Commission to reinstate impact fees at their fully recommended amount. He told commissioners they could not claim to have never raised taxes after approving the new tax rate.
He said the increase will take an additional $3 million out of Hernando County taxpayers' pockets.
Rather than levying impact fees on new residents, Palmieri said, "you prefer to tax the people who already live here to the tune of $3 million.''
Commissioner Steve Champion said he and Commissioner John Allocco, who were both elected last year, didn't create the fire department deficit, "but we had to fix it.''
Champion pointed out that the fire tax will end in three years, once the $7.5 million deficit is wiped out.