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Hernando officials agree to new study of impact fees

County administrator says the county has a $79 million deficit for needed capital projects.
Artist's rendering of the proposed new Hernando County government center which could be built at the Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport. [Hernando County]
Artist's rendering of the proposed new Hernando County government center which could be built at the Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport. [Hernando County]

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County staff members suggested this month that they update the county’s impact fee ordinance to make sure Hernando can justify the fees it charges for new construction. Commissioner Steve Champion questioned that.

The county approved a higher impact fee for schools several months ago, he said, and agreed to relook its transportation impact fees. Was this further study of other fees really needed?

The county has been getting by with existing fees to pay for government buildings, libraries, law enforcement, the county jail, fire services and parks, Champion said. Impact fees are dedicated monies charged to new construction for projects needed because of growth.

"We’re in pretty good shape for the funds,'' he said.

That’s when County Administrator Jeff Rogers spoke up.

He reminded commissioners of the county’s $88.8 million capital improvement plan, a to-do list that includes $79 million more in projects than exists in its impact fee coffers. Among the projects is the much-talked-about new county government center being pitched for a location at the Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport.

That project alone — which local judges have said for years they need for more courtrooms and office space — has a price tag of $43 million. The county still needs $41.3 million of that.

If impact fees monies aren’t available to pay for the projects, Rogers said, the county will have to find another funding source. It could increase property taxes, but commissioners last year increased the property tax rate by 14 percent just to cover expenses.

County officials also have discussed seeking public approval of a sales tax increase. But if they do, Rogers pointed out, those funds would not be available for immediate use. In a couple of months, Rogers added, commissioners will be talking about the needed emergency radio system, for which they have no funding.

"In the past, we’ve had these projects that we couldn’t fund so we just pushed them out,'' he said. "The government center has been pushed out for a long time.''

The other reason for an impact fee update is that state law requires that fees be based on up-to-date, localized costs, explained Ron Pianta, the county’s development services director. The last impact fee study was done in 2012, he said, so Hernando is overdue for an update. The county’s own ordinance requires an update at least every five years, and proposed state legislation might require three-year intervals.

Growth patterns, rates and costs change over the years, officials pointed out. And making sure the costs reflected in the study are accurate is important to protect the county from legal challenges, said county attorney Garth Coller.

Commissioners voted 3-2 to move forward with the new study; Champion and Commissioner Wayne Dukes voted no. The cost is $127,520 and would be paid to Tindale-Oliver and Associates from the impact fee fund.

Commissioner John Allocco wasn’t happy with the prospect, but voted for the study.

"To me, it just seems outrageous to spend this money over and over and over again,'' he said. "I’m just concerned it’s government proliferating government.''

Rogers showed commissioners the list of projects beyond the government center:

  • More than $4 million in improvements at Anderson Snow Park and a $400,000 splash park there
  • Two new fire stations, topping $3 million each
  • A $5.3 million fire administration and training building
  • $14.5 million for the new emergency radio system

"We should fund these things or figure out how to phase them in or forget them,'' Rogers said.

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