Saturday, December 16, 2017
Editorials

Leadership needed on filling budget shortage

Hernando Commissioner Jim Adkins says he can't be pro-business and then vote to raise the tax rate on businesses. It's the rationale he used last week in voting against a plan to balance the proposed county budget by using a slightly higher tax rate intended to raise the same revenue as the current year. The so-called rollback rate compensates for the county's declining property values.

Adkins' logic is based on a faulty presumption — that commercial property values in Hernando County remained status quo over the past year. They didn't. The Property Appraiser's Office reports a 3 percent decline in the value of improved commercial property. Likewise, Adkins said businesses are hit with double-taxation because of the tangible taxes paid on their equipment. Except, each year, businesses depreciate the value of their computers, shelves, cash registers, etc. Typically, only business that add new equipment see an increase in the tangible property value on which they are taxed. In other words, Adkins' pro-business platitudes are misplaced.

More to the point, Adkins, and fellow dissenter, Chairman Wayne Dukes, showed no leadership. Both wanted greater, but unspecified spending cuts to compensate for the $3.1 million the higher tax rate is expected to generate. Adkins simply pointed to the constitutional officers as likely candidates to trim. Dukes criticized the county staff for failing to identify supposed extraneous services that could be whacked.

Voting "no'' is a convenient cop out. If Dukes and Adkins truly believe their constituents are overtaxed — even though some, like Dukes, have seen their annual county government property taxes drop by more than 60 percent over the past seven years — then the tight-fisted duo should rethink their strategy. They would better serve their constituents by identifying unnecessary spending instead of dumping the task on people with vested interests: Their own employees or the constitutional officers trying to protect their own budgets.

Adkins and Dukes also would do well to consider the wisdom of their fellow commissioners, particularly John Druzbick and David Russell. Those two, along with Jeff Stabins, agreed to the higher tax rate as part of budget-balancing act that included altering cash flow to the sheriff and raiding the separate utilities department budget by creating something called a "return on investment surcharge.''

Adkins shouldn't be so dismissive of the points of view of Druzbick and Russell. The next time Adkins, a retired public employee, believes the commission is anti-business, he could always look for guidance from the two small-business owners serving next to him.

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