BROOKSVILLE — After a last-minute effort to cut more dollars out of their spending plan Tuesday night, a divided Hernando County Commission accepted a $395 million budget and 16 percent hike in the tax rate to support the general fund.
Even after the special adjustment was made, Commissioners Nick Nicholson and Wayne Dukes said no to the tax hike and budget.
Tuesday's final public hearing on the 2013-14 budget included a handful of residents speaking out against the increase.
"Don't reach into my pockets," said Weeki Wachee resident Larry Ball. "My funds are pretty tight."
Others argued that those on fixed incomes couldn't afford an increase and government critic Hamilton Hanson used terms like "sleight of hand," "hoodwink" and "shell game" to describe the budgeting process.
The builders association also sent a resolution begging the commission to forgo the increase.
The builders suggested that the commission "stick to the services mandated by law as the guide for what should be spent in the budget and find another way to cover the cost of running our county other than to increase property taxes on homeowners."
After public input, Commissioner Jim Adkins suggested a $300,000 cut from the general fund budget to further reduce the tax rate. That sent assistant administrator for budget George Zoettlein to his office for two more hours of number crunching while commissioners shared pizza with the public and employees in the chambers.
Zoettlein said the extra dollars could come from deferring maintenance on county equipment.
For the past several years as property values and tax revenue fell, the county balanced the budget using attrition, restructuring and spending down reserves.
Those reserves have been depleted and county officials say they have cut staff to the bone.
The final total budget is a decrease of approximately $17 million from the current year. The general fund is $92 million.
The tax rate to support the general fund increases by 0.95 of a mill from 5.9169 to 6.8669.
A mill is $1 in tax for every $1,000 in appraised taxable property value. For the owner of a house with a $60,000 taxable value, the tax to support the county's general fund would increase $57.