Speaking to the Citrus County Historical Society, Secretary of State Jim Smith urged residents Wednesday to join the state budget battle if they want state funds for projects like the restoration of the Old County Courthouse.
Constituents should let their legislators know their views on the budget issue, Smith said. The austerity budget approved by the Legislature doesn't have any funds for historic preservation or cultural affairs, he said.
"Personally, I don't mind paying some more taxes," the Republican said. "I think our schools are in a desperate situation. .
. Personally, I am tired of seeing our state ranked near the bottom in just about everything."
On Friday, the state nominated the Old County Courthouse in Inverness for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. The listing would make the building eligible for preservation grants for restoration.
Smith applauded local efforts to get the listing on the national register. But he predicted that state and local money would be needed to make restoration a reality.
"You are enthusiastic, you have done a great job, but I also think it's important for citizens .
. to let your leaders know what you want them to do," he said.
The only realistic way for the state to raise additional revenue would be to eliminate some sales tax exemptions, he said.
"We're at a crossroads of where we're going in Florida," he said, "what kind of quality of life we're going to have, whether these young people .
. will be able to go to state colleges."
Florida is growing fast, Smith said. "Things are changing, so it's important that we do preserve some things along the way," he said.
Smith was the featured speaker at the Citrus County Historical Society's annual luncheon. Before his speech, students from Inverness Middle School's sixth-grade REACH class narrated a time line describing the history of Citrus County (See photo, Page 8).
They were followed by a group of the school's seventh-graders, who presented Smith with a model of the Old County Courthouse.
Bob Roberts, president of the Citrus County Historical Society, presented the group's Presidents Award to Ed Kohl. Also, Hampton Dunn, president of the Florida Historical Society, presented the Mary I. MacRae Decade of Service Award to Esther Yonkin.