Ingoglia has his ‘Gang of Three’ on commission
Twelve short years ago, the economy was in the final days of a lengthy boom, driven in no small part by reckless loan practices and unscrupulous home builders and realtors always happy to make an easy buck. The Hernando County Commission in 2007 was led by me, a Republican and chairman of the Board. I worked closely with my Democratic colleagues, Commissioners Chris Kingsley and Diane Rowden, to protect local resources like parks, libraries and public lands, while supporting law enforcement and simultaneously reducing the millage rate for the general fund by 18 percent.
The large tax cut wasn’t enough to prevent a local builder from forming a political action committee called Government Gone Wild to try to defeat Kingsley, Rowden and me at the polls the following year. Blaise Ingoglia rode to the taxpayers’ rescue. Ingoglia’s mentor, Duane Chichester, nicknamed the bipartisan commissioners the “Gang of Three.” In 2008, voters turned Kingsley and Rowden out of office. I would never serve as chairman again.
Republican hegemony began in earnest that year as the economy began a horrific slide into the Great Recession. Impact fees were eliminated, which had helped moderate the tax base by making new growth pay for itself. No longer.
Year after year, the budget for the county sheriff was allowed to grow while hundreds of local non-law enforcement employees were forced into retirement or saw their positions eliminated. Ingoglia turned his fame into a job as Republican county chairman, state representative and eventually was also elected chairman of the Florida Republican Party. Behind the scenes, he successfully maneuvered people to run as Republicans for the county commission until they were able to gain control last year.
Ingoglia’s board majority last week voted 3-2 for the tax and water fee increases. Your general fund property tax rate will increase by 14 percent next year, and your water bills will rise 25 percent over the next five years.
The old “Gang of Three” is nowhere to be found. The new gang will soon be seeking your votes for re-election in 2020. Hopefully, voters will carry their tax and water bills into the voting booths at this time next year and remember to put Blaise and his cronies out.
Jeff Stabins, Spring Hill
Re: A school police force? | Oct. 4 story
Hernando County School Superintendent John Stratton would like the school system to have its own police department. He says that it can, for the same cost as using sheriff’s deputies, hire five additional officers and a secretary.
Who is going to be the head cop? Certainly, you will need a chief or something similar. Then you will need supervisors, a chief, a lieutenant and sergeants to monitor the officers.
Will there be one supervisor per school, or will they be roving from school to school? Will the supervisors be paid more than the school security officers? Certainly a new chief will cost more. How much training in law enforcement has the school superintendent had? Schools start at different times, leading to longer days for the officers and more overtime.
While it may sound like a reasonable plan, it will simply add another layer of bureaucracy to the school system. We all know what that means — more money needed — and that leads to higher taxes.
Wayne Parlow, Ridge Manor
Tax rate jumps 14 percent | Sept. 27 story
For residents of the Adventure Coast who may not have been following the budget debacle in our county, our Board of County Commissioners passed a 1 mill general fund property tax increase on Sept. 24. The vote was 3-2 for the increase. The principal reason cited was “public safety.” Hernando County now has the highest millage rate for its general fund compared to surrounding counties.
The county administrator just announced that he would like to hire an assistant administrator to fill the vacancy he created when he became administrator. In normal times, and assuming a healthy financial balance sheet, that would be a reasonable request. But these are not normal times.
The Hernando County balance sheet has been operating in the red. The county may have to borrow money from internal accounts to pay bills through November, when property tax revenues are anticipated to come in.
So let’s examine the numbers. The commissioners each earn approximately $70,000 a year. The new assistant county administrator has been reported to earn approximately $135,000, plus benefits. That is approximately $485,000, plus benefits, payable by the taxpayers of Hernando County.
Our commissioners have not offered to reduce their salaries and contribute some portion to deficit reduction. Their strategy is to blame the former county administrator and budget director for providing erroneous information. For people making $70,000 a year to claim they should be held harmless because of the lack of knowledge is questionable. What are the taxpayers getting for a $70,000-a-year public servant?
The county administrator had best interests of taxpayers in mind to reduce county rolls by 27 employees, but the sheriff made no effort to reduce expenses. Under the Oct. 1, 2019 budget, he is getting a sizable increase. In the meantime, he had approximately 20-plus vacancies closing out the 2019 fiscal year.
So where are the funds he did not use to fill the unfilled positions? Are they not supposed to be returned to the general fund or to replenish the reserves?
It is time to establish by legislative act a Provisional Citizens Budgetary Advisory Committee to monitor the Hernando County budget. It is obvious to this taxpayer that the commission is not performing adequate oversight, given the history of this budget debacle.
Mike Fulford, Hernando Beach