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Spring Hill fire board rejects price of tax vote

SPRING HILL — Facing a deadline for a special election on a critical taxing issue, Spring Hill commissioners on Tuesday balked at committing any money toward printing the ballots, saying they lacked the necessary information to do so.

In an emergency meeting to deal with the district's ongoing taxation troubles, commissioners complained that they had not been told before about the $46,962 that Supervisor of Elections Annie Williams says is due Thursday to the company that would print the ballots.

"This is unacceptable," commissioner Amy Brosnan said angrily. "There's no invoice, no paperwork. I don't feel this is good business."

Brosnan's sentiments were echoed by other board members who agreed that they wanted to see more complete figures before they were willing to make a decision.

Fire Chief Mike Rampino said he had been in contact with Williams' office but had yet to receive anything in writing concerning the ballot costs.

"Everything I know I've learned over the phone," Rampino said. "And some of the figures I've gotten have changed two or three times."

The fire board is battling a tight time line to set up a special election asking Spring Hill voters once again to give it the taxing authority that the board was denied in an election last year.

The board initially wanted a traditional polling election but the elections office said there was not enough time to do so. The board then decided to go with a mail-out ballot.

The ballots would be dropped at the post office on May 25, and must be returned by June 14.

That is, unless a judge decides to extend for a year an interlocal agreement with Hernando County that has allowed the county to collect property taxes to finance operations. The agreement is set to expire Sept. 30.

The extension would allow the taxing referendum question to be on the ballot during a regularly scheduled election in 2012.

Last week, the fire board agreed to commit up to $250,000 toward the special election while its attorney, Andrew Salzman, works toward getting the issue before Circuit Judge William T. Swigert in Ocala.

Meanwhile, the clock continues to tick on the district.

Rampino said that Salzman has filed briefs for a preliminary hearing before Swigert on Monday. That is the same day that the district must provide its ballot files to Advance Ballot Solutions.

Should the election be canceled, the district would be refunded only $6,419.54 of what it paid.

"We're definitely between a rock and a hard place," commission chairman John Pasquale said.

The referendum, if held, would once again ask Spring Hill voters for the authority to levy taxes up to 2.5 mills, which is identical to the question voters rejected last August.

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

Spring Hill fire board rejects price of tax vote 05/03/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 3, 2011 8:20pm]
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