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County Commission to discuss slight tax cut

The County Commission today is expected to consider its first property tax reduction since 1999.

But like that cut six years ago, the relief on the table is modest.

Although no concrete proposal has been made, county Office of Management and Budget director George Zoettlein said the discussion will focus on the possibility of a 0.1 mill trim for 2006.

To put that into perspective, if the cut is eventually adopted, a county homeowner would pay $8.32 in property tax for each $1,000 of assessed home value instead of $8.42.

So an owner with a $100,000 home and a $25,000 homestead exemption would pay $624.03 annually, rather than $631.53, or $7.50 less a year. Any reduction, however, could be negated by an increase in property value.

Also, those figures reflect the property taxes levied on all Hernando County residents, and do not include other taxes and fees residents pay for schools and for fire service.

According to Zoettlein's initial estimates, if the total value of taxable property continues to increase at its present rate, the tax cut will still cost the county about $680,000 in lost revenue.

That amount would come off the top of an estimated $96-million in revenue projected for 2006.

A meagre reduction would allow the commission to claim it had granted tax relief, without the public noticing a true benefit, said County Commissioner Diane Rowden. She said that a series of minor cuts to the county property tax made since 1997 had cost Hernando some $28-million that could have been spent on community needs. "I don't think this is a smart move," she said.

Today's discussion is one of many that will culminate in a series of public hearings on the 2006 budget and its final adoption in September.

Without budget requests from county departments and greater clarity from the commission regarding what projects must be completed in 2006, Zoettlein said, he was unsure what impact the cut would have on services.

"It's really too early to tell," he said.

The budget meeting is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. at the County Government Center, 20 N Main St. in downtown Brooksville.

Will Van Sant can be reached at 754-6127 or vansantsptimes.com.

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