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Taxpayers are increasingly burdened with funding education

Editor: Re: School Board to borrow $30-million, Oct. 23 Times.

The board is borrowing $30-million for school construction with an estimated $17-million in interest attached, while already in existing debt "borrowing" $95.1-million.

If my calculations are correct, a debt of $142.1-million would total the amount that would face Hernando County taxpayers. One could say, in terms of millions, "never in a million years" could we pay off such an amount. Of course, to add to all the woes presently facing the county's population, the School Board (Oct. 27 Times) would like us to vote for an increase in our sales tax.

With an effort to postpone new school construction in view of the present debt we face, it would be nice if they gave some thought to either purchase or lease some of the empty retails and chain food stores, etc., that could serve as schools after required renovating. All of these facilities already have utility connections and include generous parking facilities. These measures would allow adequate accommodations for educating students.

An insert in the Nov. 2 Times, 15 years supporting education: a 2003 Florida Lottery Report Card, noted that the amount of $61,170,822 for education funding from the lottery has been passed on to the Hernando County School Board. It would be nice if the board explained how this money was spent. I always felt that lottery funding would reduce our taxes toward schools. However, it would appear that raising our taxes is the way that allows for more spending.

At one time, the majority of people residing in the county were retirees. However, the county commissioners continue to approve, and in some instances encourage, builders to erect thousands of homes in gated communities, and other similar quantitative construction numbers that attract families with children. Having paid in our lifetime for our children to be educated, we now find ourselves still tied to the same requirement to pay for the education of younger families.

I do not intend to vote for any tax increase or any other method employed by the board to add to our present taxes. It seems that everything always goes up and nothing ever comes down when it comes to taxes in Hernando County.

Robert Haley

Spring Hill

Article slanted, lacked facts

Re: Hernando lawyer charged with DUI in restaurant parking lot, Nov. 1 Times.

Editor: I take exception to the tenor and the structure of the article concerning the arrest of attorney O.J. Harp III. The article published in that same day's local edition of the Tampa Tribune was not only more balanced, but more accurate. Your story not only omitted material and significant facts, thereby facilitating an unwarranted public perception of guilt, but also unfairly cast Harp and his distinguished career in a false light.

I do not fault your reporter for not knowing what. To those of us in the legal community it is common knowledge. But to omit material facts available to the reporter from the police report is, under the circumstances, inexcusable.

Harp suffered a major stroke some months past and, as with most stroke victims, has suffered small TIAs since that event. The residual effects of his stroke have not affected his mental faculties or his ability to skillfully practice his profession, but have left him with residual outward physical symptomology.

Your reporter's choice of words, and suspect omission of certain facts from the police report, would clearly and unfairly convey the impression to anyone not knowing of the stroke that Harp's difficulty with coordination, driving and motor skills were the result of alcohol.

Likewise, your reporter's choice of words and his focus on only three of the hundreds of cases defended by Harp in the past two years belies the skilled, dedicated and often thankless devotion he has given to those in his professional care during the more than quarter-century he has practiced in this county. The conflict Public Defender contract with the county is not a plum; it is a heavy burden for which Harp receives less than 25 percent of the fees his services would earn him in the private market. His willingness to perform that duty should be commended, not criticized by implication.

Harp is my close friend and I readily admit my personal sympathy; my criticism of your story lies in the curious omission of clearly pertinent facts, resulting in an unfair and unwarranted perception of guilt and moral wrong. The subtle attack on his character, which I perceive in the structure of your story, should be balanced by your readers learning that Harp served this country in combat in Vietnam as an airborne Ranger, being exposed to the debilitating neurological effects of Agent Orange, and winning two Bronze Stars and a Silver Star for gallantry, valor and courage in the worst of all possible circumstances.

I am proud to call him my friend, and I condemn the thoughtless omissions and manipulation of the facts by your reporter.

Jimmy Brown

Brooksville

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