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Spring Hill fire board may rescind plan to tax businesses

SPRING HILL — Fire Commissioner Rob Giammarco says he wants to see a resolution calling for a tangible personal property tax on Spring Hill businesses rescinded at tonight's meeting.

Giammarco, who cast the five-member board's lone dissenting on July 27, said the measure was ill-conceived and could harm the district's reputation.

"We need to get rid of it permanently," Giammarco said. "If we leave it as it is, people will always be wondering what's next. A tax like this has no place in our community when so many businesses are struggling to make ends meet."

This time, Giammarco seems to have support on the board.

Fellow board member John Pasquale said he would vote to get rid of it. So would Chairman Leo Jacobs. Jacobs, who is on vacation and will not be at tonight's meeting, said he originally supported the measure because he was under the impression that the county was not already collecting a tangible tax.

"The way I understood it, we were going to be getting the portion that the county was already collecting in Spring Hill," Jacobs said. "We can't double tax anybody."

Giammarco said the confusion surrounding the measure illustrates why the tangible tax needs to be killed off for good.

"No one seemed to be able to provide us with a straight answer," he said. "This kind of thing says to taxpayers that we don't know what we're doing. Believe me, people are not going to forget about this."

The district, which was made independent by a vote of the residents in the fall and by the Legislature in March, must rely on Hernando County to collect its taxes until voters give it taxing powers in a special election in 2011.

Although Spring Hill Fire Rescue taxes real property, which includes land and buildings, it never has taxed businesses on their tangible property, which includes anything from a printing press to a file cabinet. However, a law firm hired by the district said it had the right to collect such a tax.

In a letter to district Chief Mike Rampino, Terry Lewis of Lewis, Longman & Walker said Florida law and Hernando County ordinances allow the county to assess the business tax on behalf of its specially created taxing units.

Rampino declined to present the board's resolution to the County Commission because he said he did not support it.

However, the County Commission may make the matter a moot point.

The board voted Tuesday to set a public hearing Aug. 25 for an ordinance change that would prohibit the district from charging the controversial tax.

Logan Neill can be reached at lneill@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1435.

Spring Hill fire board may rescind plan to tax businesses 08/11/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 11, 2009 6:56pm]
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