BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County voters strongly supported a special taxing district to pay for mosquito control Tuesday, but said they were against another to continue the acquisition and maintenance of environmentally sensitive lands.
Each of the proposals would add no more than a tenth of a mill to property tax bills, which would equal $10 in tax for the owner of a home with a taxable value of $100,000.
Both of the tax questions were for programs that already exist.
In 1988, Hernando voters approved the one-tenth-of-a-mill tax for environmentally sensitive lands to last for 30 years. But during the recent years of tight budgets, the county stopped acquiring new land.
Instead, the commission approved using some of the funds to maintain several parks, including Linda Pedersen Park and Lake Townsen Preserve, taking some of the pressure to pay for park maintenance off the general fund.
Then last year, as the county's revenue fell further, the commission agreed to take the tax levied for sensitive lands and transfer it to pay for mosquito control, again helping the general fund.
At the same time, commissioners vowed to ask voters what they preferred, but the outcome of the referendums do not bind the commission.
If the commission follows the will of voters, it will have to decide whether to fund the sensitive lands program out of the general fund or end it. On the other hand, officials have said that the mosquito control issue is one that deals with health, safety and welfare and have pointed to recent signs of dangerous mosquito-borne illnesses in the area.
Within the past two months, two sentinel chickens in northwest Hernando County tested positive for Eastern equine encephalitis, and one in Brooksville was found carrying the West Nile virus. Both diseases are spread by infected mosquitoes, and both can be deadly to humans.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1434.