1. Hernando

State budget: Hernando County school appropriations perish as airport projects survive DeSantis' veto pen

Flight student taxis on the runway at the Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport. LUIS SANTANA | Times
Published Jun. 21

BROOKSVILLE — Gov. Ron DeSantis wielded his budget veto pen Friday and cut two million-dollar school projects in Hernando County from the state Legislature's budget, including a new vocational education building, as well as $325,000 for new equipment for the Brooksville Fire Department.

Two major local projects that survived his veto pen are both located at the Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport.

Hernando County got $3 million of the $5 million requested to expand the water reclamation facility at the airport.

"Weeki Wachee Springs is an Outstanding Florida Spring and also one of the main attractions for tourism in Hernando County,'' Hernando officials wrote in their pitch for the funding. "It is impaired with nitrates and is experiencing accelerated algae growth, which is causing adverse impacts to the delicate aquatic ecosystem.''

One of the largest contributors to the problem is the outdated Spring Hill wastewater treatment plant on Osowaw Boulevard. Officials said the funding would allow the county to expand its airport plant and take the Spring Hill facility off-line, a project that has been talked about for several years.

Hernando County also will get $4 million for the design and construction of a 1,000-foot extension of the airport runway, taking it from roughly 7,000 feet to 8,000 feet.

During the recent master planning for the airport, officials determined that "due to the high volume of the on-demand air ambulance and aircraft repair businesses that are based at BKV (the Brooksville airport), they are flying to destinations throughout the world and may operate in a higher payload range. These types of aircraft often require additional runway length,'' according to the funding request form.

DeSantis vetoed both of the major appropriations proposed for Hernando County schools.

Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, had requested $1.7 million for architectural and engineering work to design a vocational education building to house high school and adult-education programs; the Legislature decided to allocate $1 million of that, which DeSantis vetoed.

School Board member Jimmy Lodato, a vocal proponent of the vocational education project, said he found the governor's veto surprising and frustrating.

"He tells everybody he wants to have vocational schools, and then he turns my vocational school down?" Lodato said. "That's beautiful."

DeSantis also vetoed a $1 million appropriation to the Hernando County School District for school security improvements. Sunrise Consulting lobbyist Shawn Foster — who lobbies for the School District, Hernando County and the city of Brooksville — said he sees that as the most significant of DeSantis' three Hernando County vetoes, noting school officials' desire to bring school security features in line with state standards.

This year's statewide school security bill, SB 7030, was signed by DeSantis in May and includes some additional school safety funding. Foster said he didn't know if that had any bearing on DeSantis' decision to deny Hernando County's specific request.

The subject is likely to come up in Tuesday's School Board workshop, which is set to include updates on this year's school security measures and planning for how to move forward in meeting state school safety requirements.

Officials with the city of Brooksville also had been hopeful of some help from the Legislature.

In the days before funding requests were due, Foster urged Brooksville officials to ask for money for needed fire department expenditures. The Legislature approved $325,000 in funding for the city to replace its 19-year-old LaFrance fire truck, in addition to buying a self-contained breathing air compressor.

The governor's office told Foster that DeSantis was prioritizing "fiscally restrained counties" — rural areas with financial hardships or low tax-bases, per state statute — for such appropriations, the lobbyist said Friday, and that Hernando County didn't meet those qualifications, even though the request was for the city of Brooksville, not the county.

Contact Barbara Behrendt at or (352) 848-1434. Contact Jack Evans at Follow @JackHEvans.


  1. Hernando County School District
    Local officials’ requests for legislators also include sewer project funding and teacher bonus reforms.
  2. Kathleen Hudak, historian with the Brooksville Cemetery, tells the story of William Henry, son of Mr. and Mrs. Quitman Varn during a walking tour of the historic Brooksville Cemetery on Tuesday as part of Brooksville's Founders' Week celebration. The boy died from appendicitis in 1913 at the  age of 9. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
  3. ANGELIQUE HERRING   |   Times
From left to right, Racheal Shaefer, Victoria Asencio and FLG X guide Jessica Seitz watch and encourage Ashley Concepcion, top center, as she starts out on the first course at FLG X on July 5 in Brooksville. With four courses ranging in difficulty, the adventure park previously called "Treeumph!" officially reopened with a charity event benefiting the Boys & Girls Club of Hernando County. HERRING, ANGELIQUE  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Hernando County commissioners want to encourage the park operator to buy the property.
  4. A Hernando County Sheriff's deputy talks to students in the cafeteria of Brooksville Elementary School in 2018. Earlier this month, the school district put forward a proposal to move away from a contract with the Sheriff and establish its own police force. On Tuesday, it announced it would drop that idea.
    Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis spoke out this week against the proposal.
  5. Hernando County community news Tara McCarty
    Letters to the editor from Hernando County
  6. The traffic signal for eastbound traffic on Drew Street at McMullen-Booth Road in Clearwater. Image by Archive
    A reader wonders why the sign at the end of Bayside Bridge instructs trucks heading north to exit during specified hours rather than stay on the bridge.
  7. Austin Wyatt Altman Pasco County Sheriff's Office
    The 22-year-old man said he picked up the girl in Hernando County after meeting her on a popular social media app.
  8. Actors emerge from a simulated farmhouse at the center of the Infected Haunted House at Scream-A-Geddon in Dade City. Luis Santana
    Fall fests, haunted trails and other scares kick off Halloween festivities.
  9. A New Generation unveils its new name and affiliation with Obria Medical Clinics during its 20th anniversary celebration in Brooksville in September. From left: New Generation board members Greg Shaw and John Pidek, executive director Cheryl Bennett and founder Stephanie Knight. Cheryl Bennett
    A New Generation will become part of Obria Medical Clinics and add medical services.
  10. Central High School student Samantha Lewis, 17, shows her Angus Cross heffer Annabell, 1, Saturday morning during the Open Beef Show at the Hernando County Fair and Youth Livestock Show at the fairgrounds. The fair and livestock show will run through April 16. For more information, call 352-796-4552 or visit HERNANDO TODAY PHOTO BY HAYLEY M  |  Hernando Today
    Hernando County Fair Association plans meet with skepticism from county commissioners and Brooksville City Council members.