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Spring Hill Fire Rescue board agrees to ask voters for power to tax

SPRING HILL — Facing dwindling options on how to finance district operations, Spring Hill Fire Rescue commissioners have agreed to ask voters a second time for the authority to levy and collect taxes.

The agreement at Wednesday's fire board meeting came a day after County Commissioners told district representatives they had little interest in renewing an interlocal agreement that has allowed the county to continue collecting property taxes on behalf of the district.

That agreement expires Sept. 30. Voters in August turned down a measure that would have given the district taxing authority, leaving the fire board with no way to raise money once the agreement expires.

"This is our last shot," fire commissioner Ken Fagan offered. "I don't see where we can go if it fails."

The fire board decided to have attorney Andy Salzman contact Hernando County Elections Supervisor Annie Williams about available dates and the cost of a special election that would still allow enough time for the district to meet the property appraiser's July 1 deadline to include the new tax on annual tax bills.

Salzman said he has begun crafting a referendum similar to the one that voters rejected last year. The referendum asked voters to grant the district the authority to levy and collect property taxes up to 2.5 mils.

Several fire commissioners said they worried what might happen if the tax referendum failed again.

"There are a lot of unknowns here," Commissioner Robert Giammarco said. "I think the taxpayers need to know what our plans would be if (the referendum) doesn't make it."

Salzman said that county officials could float a bond issue for Spring Hill's emergency services, or use the district as a contract agent. However, such a move could threaten the district's independence. Voters previously voted overwhelmingly for the district to become independent from the county.

Fire Chief Mike Rampino said he plans to contact county fire officials to see what options his department would have should the referendum fail.

"All I know is that fire and emergency services won't just cease to exist," Rampino said.

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

Spring Hill Fire Rescue board agrees to ask voters for power to tax 04/13/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 13, 2011 7:14pm]
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