The good news, Hernando County is adding new homes at the rate of roughly 100 a month. The bad news, this is putting pressure on the budget and the county’s ability to provide services to these new residents.
These were some of the things we heard at Tuesday’s BOCC meeting in Brooksville where commissioners discussed increasing the millage rate on all residents 1 mill.
Without the 1 mill increase, county staff estimates a shortfall of roughly $8,000,000 in the county’s budget next year. The five Republican commissioners were split on how to resolve the issue; cut expenses (and where), increase the millage rate, or some combination of both.
In the end, commissioners voted 3-2 to increase the millage rate 1 mill with hopes that they could find cuts with the Constitutional Officers and reduce the amount of the increase before Hernando County residents have to pay them. In Florida, under current law, the county must give you notice by mid-August showing your proposed millage rate for the coming year. It can’t go any higher than what is on the ‘Trim Notice.’
Commissioners Steve Champion and Wayne Dukes voted against the rate increase.
The commissioners all expressed thanks to the new county administrator, Jeffery Rogers, and the new budget director, Stephanie Russ, for eliminating 17 positions and more than $735,983 in expenses from their direct budget for the coming year.
Commissioner John Mitten, “I commend staff for their hard work at this, currently we are budgeting $735,983 less than the previous budget year.” – continuing, “this mill is two things – a public safety mill — to fund public safety and replenishing reserves.”
However, commissioners do not have direct control over Constitutional Officers budgets. These include the Sheriff, Clerk of the Court, Elections Supervisor, and Property Appraiser. Constitutional Officers produce their own budgets and submit them to the county for approval.
Commissioner Steve Champion immediately brought up the issue with the Constitutionals as a problem and specifically targeted the Sheriff’s budget.
Champion, “(The) Increase in the constitutionals is 7.5 million…. If you said hold the line, you cannot spend any more money, not cut anybody, not do anything, just hold the line, like our administrator is doing…… but the elephant in the room again is … this commission tells these constitutionals what they can spend. There’s 7.5 million more than last year. It is not beyond us to say No; you’re going to get zero. You’re going to get a nothing increase. You hold the line for one year. And, I actually propose holding the line and cutting 4 million. Maybe that’s too drastic, I don’t know. We talked about that. It would fix the issue.”
Commissioner Dukes echoed Champion’s frustration later with the following, “Commissioner Champion asked (in budget hearing with an outside consultant), ‘what if you did 4 million (cut) and hold the line?’ “And our consultant said, you’d fix it.”” Dukes continued, “There’s no way I’m going to support raising your taxes, when we’ve got one department that wants a 7 million dollar increase when we got no money. That’s insane. So… commissioner Champion, if we ever get a chance, we can fix this. But I don’t think right now the people on this commission are going to do that. They’re going to raise your taxes.”
The 3-2 vote raises the millage rate from 6.8912 to 7.8912. Champion and Dukes voted no to the increase.
To watch the full exchange, click on this link, and go to the 3 Hour and 56 minute mark in the video.
To see the complete budget including the 1 mill increase, click on the link below: