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Spring Hill fire tax-collection issue goes to court Monday

SPRING HILL — The Spring Hill Fire Rescue District taxation controversy could be solved Monday when a Circuit Court judge holds a special hearing at 2 p.m. in Brooksville.

Circuit Judge William T. Swigert will listen to arguments from attorneys representing the district, the County Commission and Clerk of Court's office as to whether Hernando County can continue to collect property taxes on behalf of the district after Sept. 30.

If Swigert rules in favor of extending the present agreement, then Spring Hill voters could be asked once again to grant the district its own taxing authority, a question voters rejected last year.

This referendum could be included on ballots early next year during the 2012 presidential primary instead of during a special mail-out election in the coming weeks. It would save the district an estimated $150,000 in costs.

Officials said on Thursday that the Monday hearing had to be postponed because attorneys could not coordinate their schedules. The hearing was tentatively moved to May 20. Later in the evening, the announcement came about the Monday hearing.

Before that announcement, Fire Chief Mike Rampino said he understood that the earliest possible date for the all the lawyers to meet with Swigert would be May 20 — too late for the district to meet a deadline to make a down payment to the vendor printing ballots for a special election.

However, County Commissioner Jim Adkins said he spent much of Thursday contacting all the parties involved trying to avoid having the district incur unnecessary costs.

If Swigert rules Monday against extending the inter-local agreement for another year, the fire board will hold an emergency meeting at 4:30 p.m. Monday to vote on whether to appropriate from its reserve fund half the $93,925 it will be charged to print 67,471 ballots.

"We're not looking to not allow the people their say," Rampino. "We're just trying to save the district some money."

The property appraiser has already told the district that if the election is held, it must be conducted and ballots returned by June 15 to allow his office time to get the new assessments on tax bills if voters approve the referendum.

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

Spring Hill fire tax-collection issue goes to court Monday 05/06/11 [Last modified: Friday, May 6, 2011 8:20pm]
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