BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County commissioners on Tuesday rejected any increase in the tax rate to support county services for the next fiscal year even though they were still facing nearly $1.4 million in additional spending cuts.
The commission then agreed to turn to the other elected constitutional officers to help find those additional dollars. County officials predicted budget cuts of 3 percent by those officers would cover the gap.
The commission gave the constitutional officers until Aug. 16 to submit those amended budgets, and the commission agreed to discuss the budget cuts further on Aug. 31.
Also Tuesday, the commissioners settled other aspects of their 2010-11 spending plan. They agreed to not ask for another round of employee furloughs, but also agreed to not contribute further to employee health insurance costs even though premiums will climb by nearly 9 percent.
A new series of fees in parks and recreation ranging from boat ramp fees to fees to reserve tennis courts also received a favorable vote by the commission. Those fee increases will mean that the county will not have to close the entire list of parks originally proposed and will not have to lay off any parks and recreation employees. Additional vacant positions, however, will not be filled.
County staff also said that if language that defines the use of the county's sensitive lands fund can be changed, it could contribute another $400,000 to parks maintenance. A public hearing was set to consider that change next month.
In a similar move, commissioners also agreed to keep the public transit system known as THE Bus alive for another year using money raised from property taxes destined for the Transportation Trust Fund.
Commissioner Dave Russell said that regional transportation officials are also working with the county to provide another funding source, one that might allow the bus operator to enhance the service provided. Under the tentative tax rate set by commissioners Tuesday, the tax rate to support the general fund would be the same 5.4394 mills it is now.
That rate amounts to $5.44 in tax for every $1,000 in appraised taxable property value to support county services.
Other portions of the county's property tax bill including funds for the transportation trust fund, the health unit trust fund, the sensitive lands fund, emergency medical services and the stormwater management fund will also remain at current levels.
The commission did agree at the request of the Spring Hill Fire Commission to pass on to the property appraiser the board's choice to seek a higher tax rate, increasing from 2.2686 to 2.5 mills.
This will be the last year the County Commission will be the conduit for the tax rate request for Spring Hill, which will be an independent taxing district if Spring Hill voters finalize that taxing authority in the August primary.