BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County officials will take their 2010-11 spending plan on the road again beginning Tuesday with three community meetings to explain how plummeting property tax revenues are hurting county services.
County Administrator David Hamilton and George Zoettlein, director of the budget office, will present the budget and answer questions about the tough spending decisions the county continues to face.
When the budget season got under way this spring, officials estimated a revenue shortfall topping $10 million just in the county's general fund.
Since then, county department managers have been whittling away at that deficit by shifting funding sources, raising some revenue, using some reserve funds and cutting employees and services.
County officials are still hunting for another $1 million in cuts to balance this year's budget.
The County Commission decided this summer to keep the existing tax rate even though state rules would have allowed an increase in the rate to bring in as much money as last year without having to call it a tax increase.
The countywide proposed tax rate is 6.3431 mills and includes the property taxes levied for the general fund, the transportation trust fund, the county health unit and sensitive-lands fund. That rate would amount to $6.34 in tax for every $1,000 in appraised taxable property value.
The belt tightening is a continuation of government downsizing as falling property values have caused a sharp decline in tax revenue.
The revenue shortage is estimated at $7 million next year.
Residents concerned about which services might be affected by the budget cuts have been a staple at County Commission meetings for two months. From supporters of the Little Rock Cannery, saved again this year by an anonymous donor, to those worried about the health impacts of cutting mosquito control to residents worried that the master gardener and other popular County Extension Services programs would be crippled, each came forward to argue for the value of his favorite service.
Most recently supporters of the senior athletic leagues protested park fee changes that would require them to pay for the use of the fields. Commissioners will revisit that issue next week, but they approved a series of other new or increased fees for recreation activities.
Commissioners have also discussed tapping into more reserve money and are hoping to realize some savings from a management reorganization Hamilton has promised.
The County Commission will hold public hearings at 5 p.m. Sept. 14 and Sept. 28 at the Hernando County Government Center before finalizing the budget.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1434.