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Judge halts Hernando School Board push for November sales tax referendum

Time is running short to get the item on the 2022 ballot.
Circuit Judge Lawrence Semento issued an order stopping the Hernando School Board's lawsuit that seeks to force the County Commission to place the sales tax item on the ballot.
Circuit Judge Lawrence Semento issued an order stopping the Hernando School Board's lawsuit that seeks to force the County Commission to place the sales tax item on the ballot.
Published Aug. 1|Updated Aug. 1

A Hernando County judge handed the School Board a setback Friday in its effort to get a sales tax referendum before voters on Nov. 8.

Circuit Judge Lawrence Semento issued an order stopping the board’s lawsuit that seeks to force the County Commission to place the item on the ballot. Semento said the sides did not participate in state-mandated negotiations before turning to the court.

School district officials have argued that going through that process would have the effect of killing the referendum in 2022 because it would take too long. County commissioners have said they would put the question on the 2024 ballot, which is not the district’s preference.

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

The board filed its suit in June, contending the commission overstepped its authority. The late July ruling creates an added time crunch for the board’s effort, as the supervisor of elections has set a deadline of noon on Aug. 19 to get the item onto the ballot this year.

That time frame offers little wiggle room for an appeal, and there is no guarantee the commission will agree to arbitration or mediation before Aug. 19. Dennis Alfonso, the board’s general counsel, said he is assessing the available options.

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