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Tax urged to pay for stormwater programs

The county Public Works Department has recommended creating a municipal services taxing unit to fund two stormwater management programs.

The proposal, which will be the subject of a public hearing at the March 25 meeting of the County Commission, would impose a levy of as much as 15 cents on every $1,000 of assessed home value. Officials say the tax would generate $750,000 annually.

The bulk of that money, roughly $500,000 a year, would go toward a joint county/Southwest Florida Water Management District program to protect against flooding. The effort, which should last several years and result in updated flood maps and models of drainage patterns, began in 2002 and was paid for out of the county's general fund.

"We are trying to find another revenue source," county budget director George Zoettlein said. "It's just not reasonable for it to come out of the general fund every year."

According to Zoettlein, it is customary in other municipalities to use taxing units to pay for stormwater management.

The second program funded by the tax would pay for a four-year effort to bring the county into compliance with federal stormwater regulations. Expected to cost between $100,000 to $200,000 annually, the effort is mandated by the federal government.

The Clean Water Act was broadened in 1987 to address stormwater discharge in recognition of the devastation to groundwater quality and aquatic habitat that can result from a lack of regulation.

It is the demands of that revamped law the county must meet.

Pointing to the "dire environmental consequences of illicit stormwater discharge," assistant county engineer Gregg Sutton said the program "will only benefit the people in the county."

County Commissioner Diane Rowden said she intended to support the taxing unit, saying the approach showed forethought and involves only a modest burden to residents.

"It's good to have those monies set aside for the problem," Rowden said.

_ Will Van Sant covers Hernando County government and can be reached at 754-6127. Send e-mail to