SPRING HILL — With the county's first mail-in election set to begin this month, Spring Hill Fire Rescue officials have a challenge: How to make sure voters don't slap down the district's bid to levy property taxes as they did in August.
"We didn't do a very good job of that last time, and now we're paying for it," Fire Commissioner Ken Fagan said Thursday. "There is a lot of mistrust of this district. A lot of scare tactics were used last time. We can't allow that to happen again."
Fire commissioners will have a special meeting at noon today at Spring Hill Fire Rescue headquarters to discuss their strategy for educating the district's 72,767 registered voters and the most effective means to get their message out.
Board members approved a plan Wednesday to mail a fact sheet to voters that they hope will clarify the referendum.
"It's important that we clear up the confusion that surrounded the last election," Commissioner Amy Brosnan said. "We need to let residents know that this is not a new tax. It only changes who collects it."
Ballots that will be mailed out May 25 will contain the same language that was on last year's referendum and will ask voters to authorize the district to levy property taxes up to 2.5 mills to pay for fire and rescue services.
Under a temporary interlocal agreement reached in 2009, the county collects taxes on behalf of the district. That agreement is set to expire Sept. 30.
Although he supports the fact sheet idea, Fagan said that he hopes commissioners will be active in personally getting the word out.
"It's got to be an all-out effort," Fagan said. "If we need to go door to door to speak directly to citizens, that's what we'll do. We need to make sure everybody votes."
Elizabeth Townsend of the Supervisor of Elections Office said Spring Hill's referendum will be the county's first entirely mailed in election and will be handled in similar fashion to the way absentee ballots are handled in a regular election.
Ballots will contain prepaid first-class postage envelopes. Election officials will start tabulating ballots June 10. Each will be taken from its secrecy sleeve and its signature will be verified with signatures on file. Ballots will then be run through tabulating equipment to be counted.
Voters can bring their ballots to either county election office until 7 p.m. June 15 when polls officially close.
Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or firstname.lastname@example.org.