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Sales tax bump is the answer for property owners

Linda Hayward, the pusher of the intoxicating hallucinogen called "the tax cut," is quoted as being unhappy with the "far-too-little" rollback of .25 millage points, as proposed by Hernando County budget director George Zoettlein. She brags about having started a tax revolt, suggested by 11,000 petition signatures for a tax reduction that was collected in local restaurants and businesses.

I bet 95 percent of all the good citizens who inhaled the hallucinogenic premise of a big tax cut signed without thinking of the consequences.

Ms. Hayward's hand-wringing over a fourfold increase in her tax bill - from $l,000 for a 100-acre property to a 10-acre property with a house on it (size not disclosed) - sounds shocking, doesn't it? But think: $10 an acre for agricultural land, possibly with a green-belt exemption, is dirt cheap (pun intended). A tax of $4,000 for 10 acres with a house on it, at today's property values, still sounds like a darn good deal.

When asked by a reporter what items in the budget could be cut, Ms. Hayward immediately showed her ignorance by suggesting reductions in the county building department's permitting process, which is self-supporting from building permit fees and does not use taxpayers' money. Then she suggested doing away with the county's THE Bus public transportation system. That's not a bad idea, say some residents who don't use THE Bus. But tell that to the ever-growing number of folks who use and have become dependent on THE Bus. If you were a commissioner hoping for re-election, how would you vote?

When pressed for more specifics as to where and what to cut, Ms. Hayward became hesitant and vague. Tell us, Ms. Hayward, where significant waste can be found enough to even cumulatively help reduce taxes. Oh, and what about services and county facilities? Would you cut police, fire and emergency medical protection? Maintenance of roads? Parks and recreation facilities? Libraries? How about cutting employees' salaries which, like our teachers' salaries, are already largely noncompetitive? Pray tell!

When you recommend cutting services, remember the folks who clamor for more (including parks and recreation) are voters, too. From all I see and hear, they are in the majority.

Perhaps Ms. Hayward should run for a seat on the County Commission. What a learning experience that would be for her!

Finally, before she gets around to declaring desperately needed capital construction and infrastructure improvements unnecessary, let me try to take her off the hook. We can find the multimillion investment money - without adding a cent to the county's property tax burden - by adding 1 percent to our sales tax.

With a steadily growing economy and population expansion, it is estimated that an additional 1-cent sales tax would produce close to $200-million over 10 years, enough to meet most, if not all, our capital construction needs. This sales tax would be "dedicated," meaning it could not be used for anything but capital construction purposes, thus taking that burden off the property taxpayers' backs, and without adding new debt.

Think about it, Ms. Hayward.

And let me remind you of the late President John F. Kennedy's immortal words, with my apologies for the slight alteration: "Ask not what your county can do for you, ask what you can do for your county!" Cutting taxes blindly, just so that for a brief hallucinatory spell of fleeting glory you can deceive yourself into thinking you might have helped the county's taxpayers, is not what Kennedy had in mind.

Hans H. Froehlich lives in Spring Hill. Guest columnists write their own views on subjects they choose, which do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.

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