Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hernando commissioners voice support for joining with schools on sales tax

Administrator Len Sossamon backs “Penny for Progress.”

Administrator Len Sossamon backs “Penny for Progress.”

BROOKSVILLE — A majority of Hernando County commissioners voiced support Tuesday for a joint sales tax referendum with the School Board.

And, during their first public discussion of the proposal, all of the commissioners voted to move forward with the process for putting the referendum, which would provide money for road improvements and economic development, on the November ballot.

County Administrator Len Sossamon told the commission that the sales tax idea grew out of the laundry list of capital improvement projects the county keeps and the reality that making those projects happen would require a new funding source.

Last week, Sossamon spoke at a School Board workshop, adding his voice to those from the local business community to pitch the idea of a "Penny for Progress," the working name for the sales tax initiative.

The School Board had been poised to move forward on its own with a new half-cent sales tax to replace a soon-to-expire half-cent tax. But the business community and the county pushed to add another half cent for the county to pay for specific county projects, then selling the proposal for a full penny to the public with a marketing campaign that would emphasize community improvements.

The county and the school district could each receive about $7.5 million annually from the tax, with Brooksville getting a small portion of the county's half.

Commission Chairman Wayne Dukes noted that he doesn't generally approve any tax increases, but said he had to face the current economic reality of falling property values and tax revenue.

Last year, the commission increased the property tax rate, but Dukes said that tax affects only "people who pay taxes already." About 8,000 county property owners do not pay the tax, and 4,000 others pay a reduced amount because of sinkhole activity on their property.

With the sales tax, on the other hand, at least 20 percent of the revenue comes from visitors to the county, Dukes said.

"It's the most fair and equitable way," he said.

Commissioner Diane Rowden said that the county's effort several years ago to gain approval for a sales tax increase failed because the county didn't focus on specific projects.

Rowden said she would favor a penny tax shared with the schools and Brooksville.

"I've always been supportive of working together, in unison," she said. "It certainly benefits the entire county."

She noted that people would not pay sales tax on groceries or medicine, and there is a cap on higher-priced purchases such as vehicles.

Saying the joint effort would be "a great way to raise revenue," Commissioner Nick Nicholson said he also is in favor of the penny sales tax increase.

He stressed that getting it passed by voters would require the county to have a good marketing plan that focuses on specific projects for which the revenue would be used.

"(The schools) have needs, and we have needs, but if we're not specific … it won't pass," he said.

School officials have asked for more information before deciding whether to combine forces with the county on the tax push. Under the calendar approved Tuesday, the commission would adopt a resolution on the referendum, then consider formal approval after a public hearing July 8.

Hernando commissioners voice support for joining with schools on sales tax 05/27/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 27, 2014 7:41pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Astros rout Yankees to force Game 7 of AL Championship Series


    HOUSTON — Justin Verlander pitched seven shutout innings to outduel Luis Severino for the second time, and the Astros bats came alive in their return home as Houston routed the Yankees 7-1 Friday night and forced a decisive Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

    The Astros’ Brian McCann, who has struggled during the ALCS, breaks a scoreless tie with an RBI double during the fifth inning off Yankees starter Luis Severino.
  2. Review: Faith Hill and Tim McGraw shower love, star power on Tampa's Amalie Arena


    Near the end of their potent new duet Break First, Tim McGraw stopped singing, and let Faith Hill's powerhouse voice take over.

    Faith Hill and Tim McGraw performed at Amalie Arena in Tampa on Oct. 20, 2017.
  3. Senate to take up AUMF debate as Trump defends reaction to Niger attack


    WASHINGTON — The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is taking up a long-awaited debate about authorizing military force against the Islamic State as President Trump comes under unprecedented public scrutiny for his treatment of dead soldiers' families, following an ambush on troops helping to fight Islamic …

  4. In fear and vigilance, a Tampa neighborhood holds its breath


    TAMPA — There was a time, not long ago, when Wayne Capaz would go for a stroll at night and Christina Rodriguez would shop whenever she wanted. Michael Fuller would go to his night job as a line cook, not too worried about his wife at home.

    More than 50 people gathered and walked in the Southeast Seminole Heights community Friday to pay respects to the victims of three shootings. The crowd took a moment of silence at the corner of 11th Street and East New Orleans where Monica Hoffa was found dead. [JONATHAN CAPRIEL  |  Times]
  5. Fennelly: What's not to like about Lightning's start?

    Lightning Strikes

    BRANDON — No one is engraving the Stanley Cup. No one has begun stuffing the league MVP ballot box for Nikita Kucherov.

    The Lightning, with a win tonight, would match the best start in franchise history, 7-1-1 in the 2003-04 Cup season.