Monday, December 11, 2017
News Roundup

Proposed tax rate increase is needed — really

Hernando County Administrator Len Sossamon has proposed what looks like a big tax increase, and at Tuesday's County Commission budget workshop he no doubt will say it really isn't so big at all.

There's also no doubt that this will sound like spin to some of you.

Actually, it isn't.

Consider, first of all, this year's general fund is a little more than $92 million.

The proposed 24.5 percent increase in the general fund property tax rate would boost that amount all the way up to — well, a mere $53,060 more than it is now.

That's because during the last budget season and several previous ones, the County Commission filled holes in the budget by spending reserves.

It now has to stop doing this or risk blowing up its credit rating. Its only choice is to raise money the honest way, by increasing the tax rate.

Okay, but the proposed millage rate — 7.37 — has to be way higher than at any time in recent history, right?

Not really. It was 7.24 as recently as 2006. But you paid a lot more back then because the average single-family home was appraised for tax purposes at $156,228.

Now it's down to $88,782. Figure in homestead exemptions, and the average taxable value of a residential parcel in the county is just $55,461.

That would generate a property tax bill of $408, which seems like a reasonable sum considering that it pays for parks, libraries, code enforcement, community planning, administration and the big daddy of general fund expenses, law enforcement.

True enough, it takes more than property taxes to keep the county running. You also need fees such as the ones for fire protection and ambulances.

But most of these other assessments will stay the same or, in some cases, even decline slightly. Which means that for most of us the overall county tax rate increase isn't 24.5 percent, but 7.85 percent.

And that would be just enough to keep the county on its current, near-starvation rations.

The number of employees under the control of the commission is — and would continue to be — 180, which is precisely half as many as five years ago. The hours at libraries would still be limited, as would money to pay for new books. Park maintenance workers will be able to do just enough to keep ball fields from turning into mud pits. Code Enforcement might or might not get around to dealing with the neighbor whose lawn doubles as an auto salvage yard.

The only item in Sossamon's budget that a cost-conscious politician could reasonably object to is the first pay raise for county employees in years — 3 percent in most departments, up to 6 percent at the Sheriff's Office.

For that reason, mainly, commission Chairman David Russell favors an increase a half-mill smaller than the one Sossamon has proposed.

This might be necessary to get any increase at all approved by a commission with two members — Wayne Dukes and Nick Nicholson — who don't need a reason to object to a rise in rates. And as much as I think pay raises are overdue, I don't think the ones handed out at the Sheriff's Office should be higher than anywhere else, meaning there might be some room to shave expenses.

Which is a nice favor Sossamon has done by introducing the most responsible proposed budget this county has seen in years.

He's taking most of the heat. He's allowing his commissioners to talk about decreases to it instead of increases to the current tax rates.

For example, that reduction Russell is talking about?

I hate to bring this up, considering how desperately it's needed, but it still amounts to a 17 percent increase in the general fund millage rate — if, that is, you want to give it the worst possible spin.

Comments
Lions-Buccaneers Turning Point, Week 14: A coach's future hangs in the balance

Lions-Buccaneers Turning Point, Week 14: A coach's future hangs in the balance

TAMPA — The season started in August with “Hard Knocks,” packed bleachers at training camp and cheers for coach Dirk Koetter.It ended Sunday with a 24-21 loss to the Lions, a lot of empty seats and chants of “We want Gruden ba...
Updated: 1 hour ago

High school scoreboard for Dec. 11

Monday’s scoreboardGirls soccerDixie Hollins 4, Boca Ciega 0Palm Harbor U. 2, Countryside 2Osceola 7, Northeast 0Largo 1, Seminole 0Boys soccerIndian Rocks Chr. 3, Northside Chr. 1Palm Harbor U. 4, Countryside 1...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Winter meetings journal: Rays closer Alex Colome drawing interest

Winter meetings journal: Rays closer Alex Colome drawing interest

LAKE BUENA VISTA — The Rays made a small deal Monday in acquiring INF Joey Wendle from Oakland while continuing to discuss bigger ones that seem likely to eventually lead to the trade of closer Alex Colome and then others.The Rockies and Mets joined ...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Lottery resultsNumbers drawn after 9 p.m. are no longer available by our deadlines. For results, go to tampabay.com/lottery.Pick 2, 3, 4, 5Mon., Dec. 11, midday:32 251 1266e_SRit91903Mon., Dec. 11, evening:52 400 7181e_SRit23090Fantasy 5Mon., Dec. 11...
Updated: 3 hours ago
HomeTeam Hot Shot winners: Emily Joseph and Devin Cosser

HomeTeam Hot Shot winners: Emily Joseph and Devin Cosser

HomeTeam Hot ShotsEmily Joseph, NortheastJoseph, a senior, has been a deadly shooter since her sophomore year. But this season she has added to her game. "She’s gotten physically stronger and has gained confidence," coach Will White said. "She used t...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Florida A&M names Willie Simmons football coach

Florida A&M names Willie Simmons football coach

TALLAHASSEE — Willie Simmons was named football coach at Florida A&M on Monday. The Tallahassee native will be introduced today. Simmons, 37, has been the coach at Prairie View A&M the past three seasons (21-11, including 6-5 this season). He played ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Yankees’ acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton may hasten Rays’ dismantling

Yankees’ acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton may hasten Rays’ dismantling

LAKE BUENA VISTA — The latest obstacle keeping the Rays from contending in the American League East loomed even larger Monday afternoon in pinstripes.The Yankees’ formal introduction of Giancarlo Stanton also could be an accelerant to the departure o...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Residents wonder what’s next after fire destroys Tampa apartments (with video)

Residents wonder what’s next after fire destroys Tampa apartments (with video)

TAMPA — When her apartment complex caught fire Monday afternoon, Peaches McIntyre grabbed her four children and baby stroller and ran outside.Hours later, she looked at the smoldering building with her 5-year-old autistic son, Choice Underwood, huggi...
Updated: 4 hours ago
3 Trump accusers call for congressional inquiry; Pentagon to allow transgender people to enlist; 18 win anti-Trump climate grants; more in U.S., world news

3 Trump accusers call for congressional inquiry; Pentagon to allow transgender people to enlist; 18 win anti-Trump climate grants; more in U.S., world news

United States3 Trump accusers speak, hoping to be heard nowThree women who have previously accused President Donald Trump of sexual harassment shared their stories Monday on NBC’s Megyn Kelly Today. Jessica Leeds, Samantha Holvey and Rachel Crooks s...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Judge denies former Clearwater fire chief’s motion for a new trial

Judge denies former Clearwater fire chief’s motion for a new trial

A Pinellas circuit judge denied a bid for a new trial in the case of Jamie Geer, the former Clearwater fire chief serving a life sentence for sexually abusing a girl throughout her childhood.Geer, now 63, was in court in October seeking the new trial...
Updated: 4 hours ago