Each year the National Association of Counties designates the first week of April as County Government Week in order to raise awareness about the roles and responsibilities of our nation's counties. The elected officials and employees in Hernando County government are committed to providing the best possible service to our residents, property owners and visitors. A critical component of that service objective is effective communication with our citizens.
Just like many communities throughout the country, Hernando County is currently faced with the challenge of balancing the continued provision of services with decreased revenue. The fiscal effects of the passage of constitutional Amendment 1 and the decrease in property values created by the current economic downturn and slump in the housing industry will result in a dramatic decrease in tax revenue for the 2009 budget. Our attention is focused on deciding the most effective ways to reduce our expenditures and still preserve the most basic services to our residents.
A new county administrator has joined the county team. David Hamilton has made the 2009 budget an immediate priority. Since his arrival in mid-March, Mr. Hamilton has been busy visiting with county staff and elected officials to understand the issues and the process. Mr. Hamilton also plans to meet with residents and community organizations all over the county to listen to their thoughts and opinions about the budget and about county services in general. At this critical time, it's going to require teamwork with our residents, elected officials and staff to make the necessary adjustments that will work in our community.
In observance of County Government Week, residents will have the opportunity to learn more about the services provided by four county departments: the Planning Department, Office of Business Development, Health and Human Services and the Utilities Department. The services provided by these departments will be highlighted throughout the next few days in the Times.
We also encourage you to visit the county government display at the Hernando County Fair this week in the Community Exhibit Building.
Here are some other ways you can learn more about your county government this week, or any time:
• Register for the next County Connection Program, a free 10-week program for Hernando County residents that explores just about every aspect of county government, affording participants the opportunity to meet public officials and ask questions of the people who have the answers. The program is offered in January and June, and you can register for the June program now by calling the Community Relations Department at 540-6780, or registering online at www.hernandocounty.us.
• Watch the local government channel, Bright House digital Channel 622. You can watch the Board of County Commissioners meetings and other locally produced programs about your county government. Just check the local program listings at www.hernandocounty.us/cr/hcgb. The programming schedule during County Government Week will include an interview with County Administrator Hamilton on the "Focus on Hernando'' program.
• Volunteer! There are many interesting volunteer opportunities in county government. On April 26 the Board of County Commissioners will host a volunteer recognition breakfast for the many people who volunteer their time in such areas as County Extension Office programs, Community Emergency Response Teams, the libraries, and various advisory boards and committees. If you never have been involved, but would like to be, please come to the breakfast and learn more about the opportunities. Call 540-6780 to reserve a place.
• Visit our Web site, www.hernandocounty.us.
Hernando County Government is here to serve you. We welcome you to become involved as a vital stakeholder in our county. Let us know your opinion. We need your input now more than ever to make Hernando County the best place it can be in which to live, work and play.
Brenda Frazier is coordinator of the Hernando County Community Relations Department. Guest columnists write their own views on subjects they choose, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.