Re: Trimming impact fee helps the wrong people June 24 Times editorial
Do not support decrease of fees
If you want to save money on fireworks on Independence Day, resist the temptation to invest in conventional pyrotechnics. Instead, schedule a meeting with the membership of the local Builders Association and tell them you want their support to increase impact fees. Explain that growth, in planners' jargon, should meet its "proportionate fair share" of the costs resultant upon building more homes, more stores, etc.
Assuming you are not torn limb from limb or nailed to a cross in retribution for this act of heresy, you might try to expand the discussion. Point out to the builders and speculators that more people use more road space, and that more residents create a need for more schools, more parks, more libraries and similar amenities.
Before your feisty audience tires of the overplay on the word "more," you might point out you are opposed to higher property taxes. Either in the form of regular ad-valorem millage or the more devious alternative taxing mechanisms.
Unavoidably, any shortfall in impact fee revenue will trigger an equal and opposite reaction. The county must provide infrastructure to support growth and if one source of income is reduced then another must be increased.
Builders associations always, and that's across the entire country, not just Hernando county, say growth pays for itself from the property taxes generated when a new home, or commercial structure is added to the property appraiser's inventory.
That ridiculous hypothesis could be easily refuted by any child with even a scant grasp of arithmetic. The phantom credo that "growth pays for growth" can be dismissed simply by comparing the year-on-year county budget numbers against the count of taxpayers.
In Florida, builders associations have been fighting impact fees forever. Litigation has continued in many courtrooms since that time and makes for interesting reading at the Web site of consultants Duncan and Associates (www.impactfees.com). One would think that even the Florida building industry would realize that any boom reaches a point at which it collapses. Thereafter, there is a recovery period followed by the establishment of a new "norm."
Instead, the taxpayer is confronted by a powerful lobby seeking a financial subsidy from existing residents — as if reducing the price of a $250,000 home by $9,000 (the current impact fee) would somehow generate new buyers out of thin air.
As for the boondoggle scheme to reduce impact fees by 25 percent in exchange for an equally boondoggle grant, readers would be well advised to follow the sage advice of both the Times editorial and that of the county administrator: Just say "No" —and loudly.
When it is next discussed by county commissioners, exercise your right to express your point of view. Don't allow builder lobbyists to monopolize the decision process.
Chris Lloyd, Lecanto
Re: Bolster the wave of solar energy | June 26 column
Solar is great, but let's find funding
Columnist Dan DeWitt described the unfortunate fact that only two homeowners in Hernando County are utilizing solar as a means of electric generation. He also states that the number of homes using solar in our "Sunshine State" is shamefully small.
DeWitt describes the Dandridge family of Hernando as one of two "pioneers" who are customers of Withlacoochee River Electric Cooperative. The upfront cost was $40,000, which will be offset by a federal tax break of $2,000 and a state rebate of $20,000. Unfortunately, the initial cost must be paid by the homeowner and any rebate must be applied for after the installation. This leaves most homeowners unable to take advantage of the rebates.
Photovoltaic panels that will generate enough electricity to meet only half the needs of the average household during the daylight hours will greatly reduce the use of fuel during the high-demand hours. Any excess flows back to the power grid to feed the peak commercial demand. During the day, when most homeowners are away and the sun is the brightest, the excess is sold back to the power company.
As the cost of fuel increases and electric rates escalate, solar power will increase the savings to the homeowner and the power companies. The more solar, the less we will rely on oil and coal-fired plants.
Some things must be changed and new ways of financing solar power must be implemented.
Solar-generated power that is sold back to the utility companies must be paid at the same rate for the excess power returned to the grid as the homeowner pays to purchase from the utility. After all, their savings will be substantial.
A state-financed program should be established wherein 75 percent of the initial cost would be lent to the homeowner at zero percent, payable when the house is sold or ownership changed. Solar panels enhance the value to the home substantially. Details as to qualifications, such as income can be established. State-approved contractors will have to be used. On average, during normal times, most homes are sold once every seven years. This would be a win-win situation. The state carbon footprint and fuel consumption will be greatly reduced. Cost to state taxpayers will be nominal. Federal funds should be requested for the program.
Joseph M. Lucasiewicz, Spring Hill