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Distinguish wants from needs

Re: Judicial center tops wish list | July 4 story

Distinguish wants from needs

Hernando County Administrator David Hamilton wants to build a new judicial center. He seems insistent that the county obligate itself to the tune of $90-million for buildings that may not even be needed.

In 2006 the County Commission convened a Citizens Advisory Committee, of which I was a member, to review and make recommendations regarding the county's capital budget. Additional office space was requested for our county government. The range of estimated new funding requirements ranged from $7,098,643 to $38,214,452. I believe we took the prudent approach and recommended minor changes to the old Brooksville Regional Hospital building because that cost ($7,098,643) was covered by estimated future impact fees of $7,200,000. This recommendation did not require new taxes. Since that time the old Brooksville Hospital has been sold to private interests and will become a revenue source to the county by way of real estate taxes and license fees, not to mention additional private-sector jobs.

Upon review the committee decided the "need" for more space did not exist. The difference here is between "need" and "want." County employees want more space; they do not need it.

In a time of shrinking budgets our county work force should be shrinking, too. Even those departments that fund themselves through fees and fines and have a departmental surplus should be restructured and downsized. Department heads should be required to find and implement annual efficiencies as a matter of job retention.

The Citizens Advisory Committee studied debt financing in 2006. In addition to the interest cost, there are fees to the debt manager, which in 2006 were estimated to be more than $3-million. That is a pretty sweet deal for arranging the financing.

Growth comes not from additional government spending, but from enticing private sector employers to buy and build and hire in our county. Mr. Hamilton should provide us with a comprehensive plan to attract new employers to Hernando, including benchmarks, so we can grade him and his staff on their efforts and accomplishments in attracting new business.

Government has an insatiable appetite for money. As Mark Twain once said, "Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are more pliable." All residents must look with a critical eye at any major request for funding. It is our civic responsibility.

Thomas LoCicero, Spring Hill

Re: Clear plan needed in Hernando to reverse economic woes | June 29 editorial

Give the young a reason to stay

On Sept. 29, 2006, my opinion was published (County leadership remains stuck in the '90s). I praised Office of Business Development director Michael McHugh for a presentation to the commissioners, which at the time showed insightfulness and the need for leadership.

Here we are again discussing how this county is going to create higher-paying jobs by bringing in businesses and providing them with qualified, educated workers. I had hope and confidence that Mr. McHugh would accomplish this. To my dismay, he hasn't. If the best we can do is bring in companies that bring with them 10 to 20 jobs, this county is in trouble for many years to come.

It has been said before: This county cannot depend on residential construction, real estate and government employment alone to support our infrastructure and provide services. Lowering impact fees to stimulate the economy in Hernando is a ridiculous suggestion placed before the commissioners. Home builders, developers, and real estate brokers and agents are the only ones who will benefit from this ripoff, at the expense of the taxpayers and the government. Why don't they lower their profits and commissions to stimulate growth?

The real problem in Hernando County is planning and foresight. This county faces many challenges in the future. To accomplish what is best for the families and businesses of this county requires a group of nonpartisan leaders. We need leadership with the vision and will to walk the talk. We need insightful leaders who will make decisions for the betterment of Hernando County as a whole. Decisions based on realistic objectives and goals that fall within the constraints of the county's comprehensive plan. We don't need politicians influenced by local lobbies; we need independent leaders. We need leaders who oppose sprawl and encourage managed growth. We need leaders who can go outside the county, state and country to bring in companies that create more than 20 jobs.

Hernando County has educated workers who leave the county because there are no job opportunities available for them to stay here. We are no longer a retirement community. We are a younger family tax base that is in need of more than minimum-wage job opportunities and is burdened with long commutes to Tampa or St. Petersburg.

It is time for the focus to be placed on building a tax base that is provided with opportunities for employment other than real estate.

Vito J. Delgorio Sr., Spring Hill

Re: State of this state is driving us away | July 3 letter to the editor

Kids slip through the geezer patrol

Thank you so much for setting me straight, Ms. Mantei! All these years I have been wrong. I didn't know Florida "was always meant for retirees."

I wish my parents had realized that all those years ago when we vacationed here from up north year after year. I don't remember seeing the border guards turning away all those under a certain age. We must have sneaked in somehow. The odd thing is I remember seeing lots of other families with kids like me. I guess they weren't very strict about the "geezer-only'' policy then. Good thing we waited until we were retired to actually move here.

Some say home is where you hang your hat. Well, here's your hat. Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

Linda Kloran, Brooksville

Futures reward forward thinking

Southwest Airlines chief executive officer Gary Kelly has kept the major airline carrier profitable in spite of record fuel prices. Competitors are losing millions and are laying off employees, cutting scheduled pay increases, imposing fuel surcharges and, in some cases, filing for bankruptcy protection. While competitors were wringing their hands, Southwest management was locking in fuel pricing on the futures market when energy prices were around $51 per barrel. Translated, that means Southwest Airlines pays approximately 40 percent of retail pricing for its aviation fuel today.

For years Midwestern farmers have used the futures markets as a price-protection tool. Months before their crops are harvested they use futures contracts to lock in a dollar and volume amount relative to their future crop production and costs. As a result, they are not at the mercy of volatility in the spot-market pricing.

Today individuals, private businesses, and public entities in the St. Cloud, Minn., area are enjoying fuel pricing at year-ago levels as a result of locking in pricing using forward contracting. A company that has been in business since the early 1980s offers a service that facilitates forward purchasing of fuel needs. This pricing protection has saved their customers millions of dollars, as they are paying more than $1 per gallon less than current pump prices for their fuel, simply because they locked in pricing based on projected needs one year ago.

And what about Hernando County vehicles? The Sheriff's Office? School buses? Has anyone even remotely considered using market protection tools to protect Hernando County taxpayers from energy market volatility? As an example, if Hernando County government's collective fuel consumption needs would have been forward contracted one year ago, the taxpayer burden for fuel pricing would be lessened by somewhere around $1 per gallon. Not an insignificant amount, given the annual fuel consumption of county vehicles.

Hernando County officials should get their collective heads together and begin examining the financial tools that successful airlines, Midwestern farmers, and the average consumer in St. Cloud, Minn., use. It's time for outside-the-box solutions; let's start by considering a county energy czar, or maybe even a regional energy czar shared by multiple counties.

Jim Gries, Weeki Wachee

Distinguish wants from needs 07/07/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 8, 2008 11:55pm]
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