Friday, November 24, 2017
News Roundup

Justifications for extension of impact fee moratorium don't add up


The uncertainty of the upcoming sales tax referendum was one excuse Nick Nicholson gave to put off — again — charging builders their fair share for new construction.

We won't know how much we need in impact fees, Nicholson told his fellow Hernando County commissioners Tuesday, until we know whether voters will agree in November to add a penny of tax per dollar to their purchases.

Relax, Nick. You don't have to worry.

With the kind of mindless policy that you recommended — and that all of the other commissioners except Diane Rowden supported — there won't be any messy sales tax revenue to complicate matters.

There won't be the $80 million the county wants for unclogging intersections or ensuring that kids can walk to school without getting mowed down by motorists.

There won't be another $80 million over the next decade that educators desperately need to maintain crumbling schools and upgrade old technology.

That's because taxpayers will inevitably ask themselves a simple question:

Why should we pay more when the builders don't have to pay what they already owe?

Or, phrased another way, why should we fund a handout to builders that comes to nearly $13,000 for every new home?

Yes, it really is that much. And as an added kick in the shins to taxpayers, we paid the consultants who calculated that sum: New homes, on average, require about $7,000 worth of space in schools and put a $5,767 impact on roads.

Not that the commission was actually considering charging all of that. Of course not. It currently levies only much smaller fees for facilities such as libraries and parks and hasn't required builders to pay their full fare since 2009.

No, the county, which in February passed on charging builders for schools, was set to start charging 44 percent of the recommended road fee, or $2,537 per new home.

That amount was picked by this same 4-1 majority last year mostly because it seemed politically palatable at the time.

Not any more. Persuaded by the likes of Bob Eaton — long the local builders' whiner-in-chief — the commission extended the moratorium in charging transportation impact fees until at least next June. And I say "at least" because, given the commission's track record, it seems likely they will simply vote to extend it again.

No doubt Eaton will be back to argue that the county must wait until the poor builders, who would really love to contribute, he said, can afford to do so — wait until new housing starts reach a "reasonable" level, which, he said after the meeting, would be about 1,000 per year.

And he will no doubt argue again, as he did on Tuesday, that a relatively vibrant building industry is key to a full recovery in Hernando.

But, wait, isn't home construction supposed to follow other economic development, not lead it? And wasn't that supposed to be the main lesson that commissioners learned from the housing bust?

Yes, but as is obvious from several of this commission's votes, the lesson didn't sink in. This gift to builders comes at the expense of the quality schools and infrastructure needed to attract more substantial industry.

It's getting to be a big gift, by the way, as the building business starts to show signs of life. The 205 permits for single-family homes in the first seven months of this year represent $2.6 million in lost transportation and school fees — revenue you will be asked to make up for in November.

That's right. This gift also comes at the expense of you, the taxpayer. And it would be natural for you to express your resentment with a "no" vote in November.

But don't, please.

The county really needs the money. And the schools, whose share would just be an extension of the district's current half-cent sales tax, need it even more.

No, take it out on the commissioners at the helm of this fogbound ship.

David Russell, whose vote was especially disappointing because he actually knows better, has unfortunately deprived us that privilege by announcing that he won't run for re-election.

That leaves Wayne Dukes, who has cast a series of votes that do more for people who make contributions than those of us who merely cast votes.

A vote against Dukes would be a good reminder of another lesson commissioners seem to have forgotten: This is not the way things are supposed to work.


Woman, 51, robbed in Tyrone Square Mall parking lot, police say

ST. PETERSBURG — A woman was robbed after a man followed her to her car in a mall parking lot Thursday night and shot once at her, police said. The 51-year-old woman, whose identity St. Petersburg police are withholding, was not injured. She was walk...
Updated: 9 minutes ago
Neighborhood watched

Neighborhood watched

MONICA HERNDON | TimesTampa Police Department mounted patrol Officer William Wagner-Hart rides Pike near Osceola Place and E Henry Avenue in Seminole Heights on Friday. The mounted patrol units join other officers already patrolling the area in t...
Updated: 11 minutes ago
USF QB Quinton Flowers shines in 49-42 loss to rival UCF

USF QB Quinton Flowers shines in 49-42 loss to rival UCF

ORLANDO — The "War on I-4" commenced on a damp, cool afternoon beneath gray skies. Meteorologically, it was a bleak Friday.It ultimately faded to black for USF, but not before senior quarterback Quinton Flowers delivered the latest in a volume of bre...
Updated: 14 minutes ago
Safety Harbor family, under attack from its pit bull, stabs the dog to death

Safety Harbor family, under attack from its pit bull, stabs the dog to death

SAFETY HARBOR — A family had to stab one of its pit bulls to death Friday after it got loose and started to attack its owners, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.Now a 45-year-old mother, Heidi Cooper, and her 14-year-old and 22-year-o...
Updated: 19 minutes ago
Black Friday still a brick-and-mortar experience for some

Black Friday still a brick-and-mortar experience for some

TAMPA — Standing in a frantic line at Best Buy on Thanksgiving, one young woman beat the system when she showed off the receipt for her new TV, which she had just purchased on her phone. She was waiting to pick it up."I didn’t know you could do that,...
Updated: 25 minutes ago
Car-sized hole from broken water pipe closes road in Valrico

Car-sized hole from broken water pipe closes road in Valrico

VALRICO — A large hole that opened in Valrico’s Bloomingdale neighborhood on Thanksgiving Day was caused by a broken water pipe, not a sinkhole, county officials said. The hole swallowed a Mini Cooper-sized chunk of Natures Way Boulevard, at the Elm ...
Updated: 26 minutes ago
Mounted police patrol Seminole Heights after killings

Mounted police patrol Seminole Heights after killings

TAMPA — A Florida police department is using horse patrols in a neighborhood that’s been plagued by homicides in recent weeks. Officials in Tampa have been searching for the person — or people — responsible for shooting and killing four in the Semino...
Updated: 28 minutes ago
Food for parking fines program flops as city keeps motorists in the dark

Food for parking fines program flops as city keeps motorists in the dark

TAMPA — The holiday season is a time of giving, a sentiment the Tampa City Council hoped to tap into last year when it agreed to let motorists pay part of a parking fine by donating food to the poor.But when the six-week "Food for Fines" drive was la...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Bucs journal: DE Will Gholston likely to return from neck injury

Bucs journal: DE Will Gholston likely to return from neck injury

TAMPA — Bucs DE Will Gholston is expected to make a healthy return Sunday in Atlanta after missing two games with a neck injury, and he’s thankful and relieved not to have to deal with anything more severe."It was knee-buckling," said Gholston, offic...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Take steps against holiday fraud with private WiFi, fraud alerts

Take steps against holiday fraud with private WiFi, fraud alerts

The holiday shopping season bring hosts of discounts and deals, but it also brings something less cheery — fraud. According to a forecast by ACI Worldwide, a payment processing company, retailers are expected to see a 30 percent jump in fraud this ye...
Updated: 3 hours ago