Tuesday, January 23, 2018
News Roundup

Hernando commission says no to special taxing district for libraries

BROOKSVILLE — Although they said they support the county's library system, Hernando County commissioners on Tuesday opted not to create a separate taxing unit to provide designated funding for libraries.

For the last several years, the library system has largely been run using State Aid for Libraries grants, but that funding has been spent down, and the amount added by the state each year has been diminishing.

That means that to keep the libraries operating at the same level during the next fiscal year, the county must either find a new source of funding or go back to paying for the system with money from the county's general fund.

Next year, the library budget is expected to be about $2.4 million, with only about $400,000 in grant funding available, officials reported.

The option brought forward Tuesday was to create a special taxing district that would raise money for libraries the same way the county already finances mosquito control, storm water management and emergency medical services.

The deadline for creating special districts is May 24, and officials wanted to vote on the library district in case the commission later wanted to consider levying a property tax to fund it.

While some residents came to the microphone to extol the virtues of a first-class library system, commissioners and a number of others who spoke balked at the idea of a special taxing unit.

Commissioner Wayne Dukes said using special taxing districts was simply a way to increase taxes, and he said it was the commission's job to find a way to pay for services through the general fund.

"I can't support this,'' Dukes said.

"All this is is another tax,'' said resident Joe Lemieux.

He noted that even with just a $25 increase in the tax bill for a home with a $50,000 taxable value, increases from multiple proposed taxing units would add up.

Former county Commissioner June Ester suggested that the county could pay for libraries by charging for library cards or approving a sales tax so everyone would pay.

"It would be the fairest way to make everybody pay,'' Ester said.

Creating the special taxing district would ensure a dedicated revenue stream for libraries into the future, Commissioner Diane Rowden argued.

She has been an advocate of special taxing units so residents can see what they pay for various county services. She didn't like the idea of charging fees for using the library. Allowing the system to fade away isn't an option either, she said, because without library services people won't choose to move to Hernando County.

Commission Chairman Dave Russell said he thought of the taxing district as "a feel good idea" that didn't really have any benefits.

"We can adjust the general fund rate as easily'' and still pay for library services, he said.

As for the argument that separate rates create more transparency, Russell said, "It will be delineated on our budget, but not on our (tax bill).'

"I think we understand that people want us to fund the libraries,'' he added, but said he didn't think that many people cared about seeing the service separated out on their tax bill.

Another drawback of funding services with what are known as municipal services taxing units is that, in some cases, the city of Brooksville would also have to agree to participate, Russell noted.

A motion to reject the MSTU for libraries passed 4-1, with Rowden in favor of creating the district.

Other MSTUs were also proposed to meet the May deadline: parks and recreation, law enforcement, economic development, unincorporated services and fire-rescue.

All of those, as well as a change in the existing mosquito control MSTU and consideration of a sales tax referendum for fire-rescue and emergency medical services, were deferred to the commission's meeting on May 14.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1434.

Comments

Column: #MeToo in Tampa, 1973

I graduated from Robinson High School in Tampa in 1970 and then started my freshman year of college. As a result of having changed majors, I was out of sequence in my design program at the University of Florida after the fall quarter of ’72. I would ...
Updated: 4 minutes ago
Targeted by false filings, Pinellas judge takes witness stand

Targeted by false filings, Pinellas judge takes witness stand

LARGO — In his eight years as a circuit judge, Thomas Minkoff has handled family and civil cases. He oversaw more than 14,000 foreclosure hearings at the height of the Great Recession.He was in court once again on Tuesday, but not in his usual perch ...
Updated: 6 minutes ago

Parents of defendant in Seminole Heights killings ‘devastated’ he faces death penalty

TAMPA — The father of Seminole Heights killings suspect Howell Donaldson III hopes the state attorney will reconsider his decision to seek the death penalty in the case, attorneys for the family said Tuesday."It’s upsetting to the family to know that...
Updated: 12 minutes ago
The Diary of Anne Frank opens at Stage West

The Diary of Anne Frank opens at Stage West

Anne Frank became one of the most notable victims of the Holocaust after the publishing of her diary, which chronicled more than two years of the Jewish teen’s life in hiding in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam during World War II. Her story will come to life...
Updated: 16 minutes ago
ScarFace the Osprey scarfs up prized neckwear to make Coquina Key home

ScarFace the Osprey scarfs up prized neckwear to make Coquina Key home

ST. PETERSBURG — Some 25 feet up in the air, towering over Coquina Key Island sits an osprey surveying the park below. It is on the hunt for any bit of material so it can to prepare a nest for future hatchlings. Whether it be sticks, hay, palm leaves...
Updated: 17 minutes ago
Man sentenced for smuggling king cobras in potato chip cans

Man sentenced for smuggling king cobras in potato chip cans

LOS ANGELES — A Southern California man has been sentenced to five months in federal prison for smuggling three highly venomous king cobras hidden in potato chip canisters through the mail.In a plea agreement, Rodrigo Franco admitted smuggling anothe...
Updated: 30 minutes ago

Suspect in custody after man fatally shot in Holiday

HOLIDAY — A man is in custody after a fatal shooting in Holiday on Tuesday afternoon.Pasco County deputies say a male victim died of gunshot wounds at 3519 Richboro Drive.A preliminary investigation indicates the shooting may have stemmed from a disp...
Updated: 1 hour ago
He drove into Tampa Bay and walked away uninjured, troopers say

He drove into Tampa Bay and walked away uninjured, troopers say

A Miami resident lost control of his truck and tumbled into Tampa Bay Tuesday morning — and walked away unscathed.According to the Florida Highway Patrol, Osvaldo Jares, 25, fell asleep at the wheel of his 2002 Ford F150 before losing control and dri...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Tampa micro housing advocates find big demand for living small

Tampa micro housing advocates find big demand for living small

TAMPA — When Omar Garcia announced plans to transform a vacant downtown office building into 120 micro apartments of about 300 square feet each, the calls and checks poured in."We got 90 reservations like that," Garcia said Tuesday, snapping his fing...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Hillsborough State Attorney will seek death penalty in Seminole Heights killings

Hillsborough State Attorney will seek death penalty in Seminole Heights killings

TAMPA — Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren will seek the death penalty for Howell Emanuel Donaldson III, the man charged with killing four people last year in southeast Seminole Heights."The death penalty is for the worst of the worst, crimes ...
Updated: 1 hour ago