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Potential for half-cent sales tax referendum in 2022

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The Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) approved a sales tax ballot initiative which will begin the forward motion of a referendum on the November 2022 ballot for an additional half-cent sales tax.  The additional revenue to the county is estimated to be $13,898,033 annually.  A public hearing to adopt the ordinance placing the referendum on the ballot will occur prior to Dec. 1, 2021, and will be publicly noticed. 

The city of Brooksville would receive about $625,000 annually from the half-cent sales tax.

The half-penny Local Option Sales Tax (having the unfortunate acronym of “LOST”) provides additional revenue to the county for infrastructure needs while reducing reliance on property taxes.  Another advantage according to the county is that an estimated 25% of the extra sales tax would be paid by tourists and people who work in Hernando County but do not live here.

Exemptions still apply to groceries, medical services, medication, and fuel. The tax would only be collected on the first $5,000 of large purchases of tangible personal property, or a maximum of $50 on a single purchase.  

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Usage of the tax revenue will be approved projects, which will be listed on the final ballot referendum.  As of Tuesday’s meeting, the approved projects for receiving funds from this proposed tax are transportation and roadways, parks and recreation, and emergency services. 

The sales tax will come with an expiration date, which will be decided by voters whether or not to renew.

The board as a whole is optimistic that voters will see the benefit of a tax that everyone pays, and that will be applied to ease problem roadways, a common subject of concern that affects everything from traffic headaches to new housing development to safety in school zones. 

“How could you not do that?” Commissioner Jeff Holcomb said, praising the potential of the sales tax to reduce the millage rate and retain more money in the county’s General Fund. “It’s a better way to tax, and it’s a better way to raise revenue (that’s) not on the backs of our citizens.”

Commissioner Steve Champion voiced concern about the school district possibly renewing their half-cent sales tax (which is used for school building repairs and remodeling) on the same ballot.  “The people I’ve talked to are not happy with the school system. If that’s on the ballot with ours, you can bet all of them are going down in flames.” 

The county is facing at least $206.5 million in transportation projects currently funded by existing and future impact fees, grants, and sales taxes.  Quality of life needs costing $17,184,613 include the Anderson Snow Splash park and Recreation area, Eco-Tour Boardwalks at the Weekiwachee Preserve, and other projects involving parks and boat ramps. 

Compared to neighboring counties, Hernando (6.5%) is second to Citrus (6%) for having the lowest sales tax rate.  Levy, Sumter, Pasco, Lake, and Marion counties rates are 7%, while Hillsborough is 7.5%.

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