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Hernando School Board sues County Commission over sales tax referendum

The board wants a vote this November, but the commission decided to put it on the 2024 ballot instead.
The Hernando County School Board is taking the County Commission to court over the timing of its next sales tax referendum.
The Hernando County School Board is taking the County Commission to court over the timing of its next sales tax referendum. [ DOUGLAS CLIFFORD | Times (2018) ]
Published Jun. 7

Following through on its threat, the Hernando County School Board filed suit this week to force the County Commission to place the board’s sales tax extension referendum on the November 2022 ballot.

Board members agreed to take this step after the commission refused to set the vote as requested, instead choosing to put the item before voters in 2024 — one year before the current half-percent tax expires.

In his complaint, the board’s lawyer, Joe Mason, argued that the commission had no such authority. State law spells out that school boards have the authority to call for such tax questions, Mason wrote, and that the commissioners “shall” place those on the ballot.

He put specific emphasis on “the” in the law, contending “if the Legislature had intended to confer such discretion upon the county commission, it would have used the indefinite article ‘a’ which would have allowed them to choose one among multiple election cycles for the submittal of the 2022 referendum to the electorate.”

But since the board chose a specific election date for the referendum, Mason added, that is “the ballot on which the referendum is to be placed.”

The county attorney advised commissioners at a May 10 meeting that they had the ability to choose the date for the vote.

Related: Hernando school district, commission spar over tax referendum date

In a released statement, board chairperson Gus Guadagnino said it’s a waste of money for one government entity to sue another.

“But it would be a bigger waste if we can’t move forward with our facility plans and bonding needs without knowing if the money is going to be there in 2025 and beyond,” he added, calling on the commission to change its stance.

The case is in the Fifth Judicial Circuit of Hernando County.

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