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Spring Hill fire board won't levy new tax on businesses

SPRING HILL — A proposal to allow the Spring Hill Fire Rescue board to levy a new tax on local businesses is dead, at least for the coming tax year.

The proposal for the tangible property tax needed County Commission approval because the fire district does not formally have taxing authority yet. To be on the tax roll for the coming year, the commission had to approve the fire board's recently passed resolution at its Tuesday meeting.

It never came up.

Spring Hill fire Chief Mike Rampino said the resolution, which passed in a 4-1 vote at last Wednesday's fire board meeting, was not introduced at Tuesday's commission meeting because he didn't support it.

"It was a mistake," Rampino said. "There were a ton of unanswered questions, and I just didn't feel comfortable with it."

Rampino, who was away on vacation last week, said he was unaware that the resolution had gone before the fire board in his absence. He said it was his understanding that the proposed tangible tax was "only a possibility" being explored by the finance staff and the board's attorney.

"From what I was aware of, it was something worth exploring, and I thought that's what we were doing," Rampino said. "Somehow, it got beyond that. If there's blame to be taken, I'll take it."

The tax on business-related equipment would raise an estimated $300,000 to $500,000 to help offset a projected $1.3 million shortfall in the district's 2009-10 budget.

News of the tax vote last week didn't sit well with many residents and business owners. Fire commissioner Rob Giammarco, who cast the lone dissenting vote, said he was inundated with angry calls.

"If there's ever a good time to raise taxes, this isn't it," Giammarco said. "The problem, in my opinion, lies elsewhere. We have to work harder at balancing our budget."

Earlier this month Rampino presented a rough budget draft that called for the district to maintain its current millage rate of 2.2686. Increases in the EMS fees and merging the communications division with the county helped close the gap, but not enough to prevent the district from dipping deep into its reserves.

Rampino said he hoped to find a way to persuade the county to share in some of the revenue it gets from the collection of its own tangible tax on Spring Hill businesses. But as for collecting a second separate tax, forget it, he said.

"It's just not right," he said. "As a businessman myself I know I wouldn't want to pay it."

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

Spring Hill fire board won't levy new tax on businesses 07/28/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 28, 2009 8:16pm]
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