The sellout is now complete. A Hernando County Commission majority rolled over yet again for home builders and Realtors this week and didn't even bother trying to devise an original justification for pushing the cost of growth onto existing taxpayers.
Commissioners Nick Nicholson, Wayne Dukes, Jim Adkins and David Russell clearly value the voices of the development community — and their past and future campaign contributions — over residents and business owners who faithfully paid impact fees as their fair share contribution to accommodate growth. Now, those same people have to continue subsidizing future infrastructure costs because commissioners gave a free pass to special interests. They extended the moratorium on transportation impact fees for a minimum of nine months. It's Christmas in August for home builders courtesy of St. Nick and his three elves while the rest of Hernando County will be saddled with increased traffic congestion and potentially a higher sales tax. Only Dukes faces re-election this year and voters should remember his disregard for the public's interests when they cast their ballots in November.
Even Commissioner Diane Rowden said she would back a delay, but balked when Russell pushed the moratorium until June. The tired rationalization commissioners offered is that the delay will provide ample time to devise a new fee schedule. What nonsense. The schedule already is available. The commissioners voted on it just 16 months ago and agreed to charge a greatly discounted fee of just $2,537 per single-family home to begin this week. At the time, their consultant from Tindale-Oliver & Associates calculated the true transportation costs at $5,767 per new home. And that price accounted for the consultant's recommendation the county add another revenue source for transportation via higher property, gasoline or sales taxes.
The commission majority's lame logic now is that a sales tax referendum in November, in which the county proposes to use a 10-year half-cent tax increase for roads and economic development, will alter the road impact fee. No it won't. At least not the way commissioners are portraying it. If anything, the impact fee will need to be higher than $5,767 per house if voters reject the referendum. This commission majority ignored the advice of outside consultants on both education and road impact fees and to pretend that new data is now needed simply insults the public's intelligence.
The county has $104 million worth of needed road work over the next five years that it cannot afford. Even passage of the sales tax leaves a roughly $50 million hole in the short-term that will grow wider after 2018. If commissioners need a smarter planning model than their own, they can look to Pasco County. There, 40 percent of the future road-building budget is assigned to impact/mobility fees charged on new construction. But embracing smart growth has never been an attribute of Nicholson, Dukes, Russell and Adkins.