‘Why don’t you step up and take responsibility?’: Hernando readers speak out

Letters to the editor for Oct. 4 respond to the 14 percent tax rate increase passed by county commissioners last week.
Hernando County community news
Hernando County community news [ Tara McCarty ]
Published Sept. 30, 2019|Updated Sept. 30, 2019

Tax rate jumps 14 percent | Sept. 27 story

I hope you enjoy the proposed 14 percent property tax increase that our commissioners want to give us. There must be some more swampland one of their good buddies wants to make a fortune from at our expense.

Road tax money was used on the last purchase. It seems we do not need to resurface roads that have potholes in the patches on top of the patches, but waste our money elsewhere.

The commissioners seem to be against impact fees. (The total impact fee in Hernando County for a single–family home is $4,714, with $2,133 of that going to the school district.)

If we had an impact fee of $15,000 per home, there would have been a lot of money that we have to make up for in our taxes by their ineptness.

An example is the Plantation Palms area. Approximately 75 homes would have brought in $1.125 million. Plans are to build 220-plus homes off Sterling Hills that could bring in $3.3 million. It is proposed to build 2,300 homes south of Elgin and west of Mariner, another $34.5 million.

There are other areas that are in the process of building, and more money is gone while we the people are having to foot the impact bill. That amounts to over $38 million that we will have to make up.

If these commissioners could get their hands on that, they would waste it on one of their pet projects.

We now have a $10 million shortfall in the county coffers. The commissioners claim it has just recently been brought to their attention when it is recorded that they were informed about the situation a long time ago. They place the blame on a previous county administrator and a former budget director. It is great to pass the blame to someone else when you are the ones who approved these expenditures.

Why don’t you step up and take responsibility for what you have done?

I think it is time that we the people get petitions signed and put it on a ballot to let the people decide on impact fees or paying higher property taxes. At the same time, we need petitions to get a recall ballot for all of our county commissioners and then get some new minds into those positions that will better serve the people of this county and not their own interests.

Dennis Brown, Spring Hill

The tax rate jumps 14 percent.

Again, the Hernando County commissioners seem intent on sticking it to the taxpayers rather than face the wrath of the building industry by assessing impact fees on those who create the need. Over the past several years, the county grew by more than 37,000 residents who generated the need for more roads, water and sewer facilities, libraries, parks, garbage cells, etc., etc.

In addition to all the capital improvements that are needed, these 37,000 residents have put a huge strain on our ability to keep up with water and sewer services; so much so, that our rates will increase by a whopping 26 percent by 2023. According to a recent article in the Hernando section of the Tampa Bay Times, the county’s consultants state that as more customers come, more capital costs must be addressed. In fact, the county has identified $147 million needed in water and sewer improvements by 2024 and the 26 percent increase will only generate about $7.5 million for these improvements.

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Care to make a guess who’s going to pay the $140 million difference? The existing taxpayers are.

A reasonably fair assessment of $15,000 per new single family home would have generated about $180 million over the past few years, yet our wise commissioners opted to levy a paltry amount of $4,200 per home over these years, creating a huge deficit in infrastructure. Certainly, impact fees would not have covered all the increased costs of growth, but just as certainly, we would not be facing a 14% property tax increase and a 26% increase in utility bills had a fair impact fee been assessed.

We, the taxpayers, must accept the responsibility for these poor decisions. We keep electing the same ilk of politicians, expecting different outcomes. I urge each of you to ask candidates if they will support a qualified study to determine fair impact fees and once determined, if they will assess them. If not, don’t vote for them. After all, it’s your money they’re taxing and spending.

Ken Trufant, Spring Hill

Is Hernando County open for business? Maybe.

Our Board of County Commissioners passed a 1 mill property tax increase on Sept. 24. The vote was three commissioners for and two against the increase. So the recent trim notices we received are no longer proposed taxes, but the actual we are responsible for paying in November.

Hernando County now has the highest millage rate for the general fund compared to our surrounding counties. I am told that the millage rate is at the statutory limit and cannot be raised any further. So if commissioners are looking to further raise taxes, they will have to be innovative in their approach.

I followed this year’s budget deliberations with delight. At times, the proceedings were quite comical — commissioners accusing each other about who voted for what spending increase and who did what in the past to further drive this county into the financial crisis we are in. The highlight for me was when the chairman of the BOCC declared “... this is the worst day of my life.” At that point I should have know the vote was predetermined.

There are some unsung heroes that need to be recognized for attempting to put this county on an appetite suppressant and to reduce expenses. To the credit of the new county administrator, he managed to cut costs to the tune of several million dollars and reduced the size of the workforce that he controls.

Of note, the county administrator does not control the constitutional offices, which includes the Sheriff’s Office. The commission however does have the authority to set and approve their budgets. Commissioners Champion and Dukes attempted valiantly to propose a half dozen proposals to reduce expenses and balance the budget. All proposals were immediately rejected and voted down,3-2, by the commissioners.

For clarity, all the commission-controlled functions of government, as well as most of the constitutional offices, either consolidated functions, reduced their workforce or maintained cost at present levels. The exception was the Office of the Sheriff.

In hindsight, if I was one of the 27 employees removed from the work force, I would be very upset at this point since the reductions were not proportionally applied across Hernando County government.

The commission hired a management consultant at taxpayers’ expense who basically provided alternative options to balance the budget. All were ignored. Again a 3-2 vote.

My question is, at what point does government become too expensive for new and existing businesses, who call it quits on Hernando County?

Mike Fulford, Hernando Beach