Monday, January 22, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Tax rate hike ignores will of the voters

Hernando County commissioners must end the sleight-of-hand budget trickery that ignores the will of the voters. Just 18 months ago, voters overwhelmingly agreed to a municipal taxing district to finance mosquito control. The referendum, approved by nearly 69 percent of the voters, capped the tax rate at .1 mill or 10 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. Now, the commission plans to ignore that ballot question, amend its ordinance and raise the tax rate effective Oct. 1 because county staff is seeking a bigger budget to hire another technician.

Legally, the commission can do so because the 2012 referendum was advertised as "nonbinding,'' but the maneuvering tramples the spirit of the election outcome and the commission's own resolve from a year ago. In May 2013, county staffers also asked the commission to raise the tax rate because the $600,000 it generated did not cover the annual cost of mosquito spraying, requiring a $120,000 subsidy from the county general fund. The commission unanimously declined, suggesting that the staff dip back into the general fund if it needed more money.

Last week, the commission unwisely reversed itself, voting unanimously to rewrite the ordinance without a tax cap, and scheduled it for public hearing.

It's a sham reminiscent of the chicanery surrounding the 2011 demise of the environmental lands funding when a prior commission took the millage for preserving land — a 30-year levy approved by voters in 1988 — and earmarked it instead for mosquito spraying. The current strategy repeats that poor planning and lack of political will.

Mosquito control has been problematic for Hernando commissioners since the 2010-11 fiscal year, when the county cut spending for the program and then got pounded by more than 900 complaint calls because it was unprepared to handle a burgeoning mosquito population the following spring. Rather than adequately pay for the service from the general fund, Commissioner David Russell suggested the tax swap that killed the environmental land-buying program and led to the 2012 referendum.

As long as the commission plans to ignore the intent of the voters, it should consider disbanding the tax district entirely or setting the property tax rate at zero. Mosquito spraying is a matter of public health, safety and welfare — the basic tenants of government service. Separating it from the general fund is imprudent budgeting and simply a matter of convenience for commissioners who are reluctant to ask for additional general fund property taxes.

Besides, killing the tax district would follow the board majority's logic of using the general fund, rather than individual taxing districts, to finance law enforcement, parks and recreation, economic development and other public services. And it would end the current dispute with the city of Brooksville, which is not receiving mosquito spraying because it failed to join the taxing district. Using money exclusively from the county general fund would allow the spraying to resume within the city's boundaries.

Commissioners shouldn't pick and choose when they pay attention to the intent of the voters. Raising the mosquito control tax rate without voter consent is disingenuous governing and an insult to the public.

Comments
Editorial: Beware of social media targeting kids

Editorial: Beware of social media targeting kids

Ignoring all available evidence that screen time and social media exposure can be harmful to kids, Facebook recently unveiled a new messaging app targeting children under 13. It’s yet another battlefront for parents who have to constantly combat the ...
Published: 01/21/18
Editorial: Too soon for Tampa Bay to settle for buses over light rail

Editorial: Too soon for Tampa Bay to settle for buses over light rail

The good news on the transportation front is that Tampa Bay’s government and business leaders are working together like never before to connect the region’s largest cities, attractions and employment centers with a more robust mass transit system. Th...
Published: 01/20/18
Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

The smiles, applause and at least one hug belied the grim impetus for a gathering last week at a neighborhood center in Tampa — the Seminole Heights killings.The Tampa Police Department held a ceremony to thank those who helped in the investigation t...
Published: 01/19/18
Updated: 01/21/18
Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

The death last fall of a 20-year-old Florida State University fraternity pledge revealed pervasive dangerous behavior within the school’s Greek system. Andrew Coffey, a Pi Kappa Phi pledge, died from alcohol poisoning after an off-campus party, and a...
Published: 01/19/18

Editorial: Confronting racial distrust in St. Petersburg, one conversation at a time

The St. Petersburg Police Department’s heavy presence in Midtown on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the community animosity it stirred have raised a familiar, troubling question: Can St. Petersburg’s racial divisions ever be reconciled?That big ideal ...
Published: 01/19/18
William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

A surge of Democrats seeking local legislative offices and hoping for a "blue wave" in the 2018 election continued last week, led by Bob Buesing filing to run again versus state Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa.In addition:• Heather Kenyon Stahl of Tampa has...
Published: 01/19/18

Editorial: State’s warning shot should get attention of Hillsborough schools

The state Board of Education hopefully sent the message this week with its warning shot about the slow pace of the turnaround at Hillsborough County’s low-performing schools.The board criticized the school system for failing to replace administrators...
Published: 01/18/18
Updated: 01/19/18
Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

The Florida Legislature’s abrupt move to strip the University of South Florida St. Petersburg of its hard-earned separate accreditation and transform it back into a satellite of the major research university lacks detail and an appreciation for histo...
Published: 01/18/18

Another voice: Self-dealing by nursing home owners threatens patient care

The outsourcing of logistical support services, which became commonplace in the U.S. military in the 1990s and later was adopted by state prison systems, has now come to dominate the nursing home industry. And while nursing homes, unlike the military...
Published: 01/17/18
Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Three years into a crisis with its sewer system, St. Petersburg has a dandy new idea for dealing with the environmental fallout of dumping dirty water into the aquifer. Instead of committing to banning the outlawed practice, a consultant suggested th...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18