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Looks like Hernando County is officially home of the cheapskates

Forget the Nature Coast. Now you can proudly say you live on the Cheapskate Coast.

The proof is in a new report called "How the Counties Compare," from the nonprofit, nonpartisan research group Florida TaxWatch.

This document was recently updated for the first time in about a decade, said Kurt Wenner, TaxWatch's vice president of research. It is comprehensive and, at 85 pages, too long to completely summarize in just a few paragraphs.

But there is one table that comes close to being the bottom line. For those of you who want to play along at home, go to bit.ly/floridataxwatch, scroll down to Page 32 and look under the heading "Per Capita Total County and Municipal Government Revenue."

This is the sum of every penny generated by just about every method that counties and cities have devised to dig into our pockets — user and impact fees, property and sales taxes, building permits and speeding tickets — divided by the total number of residents.

What you'll find is that Hernando and its only real city, Brooksville, don't dig too deeply at all. Specifically, Hernando ranks 65th on the list, or third from last among Florida counties. The average amount we pay, $1,395.71, is only 19 percent of the share of the county at the top of the list, Monroe, and a mere 39 percent of the statewide average.

"I would have to say that Hernando has to be on the low end of the cost to voters for government," Wenner said.

And I would have to say that anybody in Hernando County still complaining about high taxes can sit down and shut up. Ditto for tax crybabies in Pasco and Citrus counties, which rank 62nd and 63rd on this list respectively.

But wait, you say. People in these high-unemployment, high-foreclosure counties are broke. They can't afford bigger tax bills.

Not quite. Hernando's per-capita personal income, $29,681, ranks 34th among the state's 67 counties, smack dab in the middle, and Citrus and Pasco are in the same vicinity. In other words, most of us can pay at least a little more and don't, which is the very definition of a cheapskate.

True, there are other explanations for this area's cellar-dwelling revenue status. All three counties have large percentages of folks living in unincorporated areas, which means less double taxation and lower overall tax bills. We'd also probably rank higher if this table included school spending, which is relatively respectable but still below average in all three counties.

On the other hand, this table does include impact fees. And at the time this report was compiled, in 2009, Hernando actually collected more money per resident from this source than most other counties. Now, of course, those fees have been cut to zero, which means the next time this report is updated, maybe we won't have to be just a sad also-ran. Hernando could be the true champion of cheap.

The danger, of course, is that we start to look that way — that we invest so little in our community that home buyers and business owners thinking about relocating to Hernando might take a drive around and decide it's just not all that nice.

After all, the share each of us pays in Hernando for "culture and recreation" — the stuff that helps make a place nice — is seventh-lowest in the state.

Which is just how a lot of people like it. To them, this is a great economic development strategy, the best way to attract still more retirees who are, uh, let's say "money conscious." The minimal tax burden might also draw businesses looking to cut costs.

"It obviously shows that the county is being pretty cost-effective," said Hernando economic development manager Mike McHugh.

We're just frugal, in other words. Which is what you always hear from cheapskates.

Looks like Hernando County is officially home of the cheapskates 12/03/11 [Last modified: Saturday, December 3, 2011 1:02pm]
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