The views and opinions expressed here are solely those of the authors and do not reflect the official policy or position of The Hernando Sun or its affiliates.
Even as Americans face the highest inflation rate in 40 years, the Hernando County Board of Commissioners is busy planning a sales tax increase that would pour gas on an already blazing inflation rate. They logged their first meeting to that end on Tuesday, Feb. 8.
As though paying an additional 30-to-40 percent more for gas at the pump and getting hit with a Hernando School Board tax increase during the middle of the pandemic wasn’t enough, county commissioners want to raise your sales tax a half-cent on every dollar spent – not just for roads but for recreational venues to be built mostly in District 2 and District 3, respectively represented by Wayne Dukes and John Allocco.
County-maintained roads should be the sole priority for tacking on another layer of taxation. Swimming pools, additional sports venues, and building miles of boardwalks around abandoned lime pits is not a valid reason for the county to increase the sales tax. It is, however, a valid reason to vote against the county’s push for new taxes in the coming referendum – yes, there will be a referendum.
If the county lacked the ability to have that relatively tiny stretch of boardwalk in Pedersen Park stay open due to it being in a state of dismal disrepair, there’s little reason to believe miles of boardwalk installed at taxpayers’ expense would age any better.
Champion had a lot to say about the people who spoke out against the new tax which the Hernando County Commission will most surely put on a referendum. None of the commissioners attending the meeting spoke out against the new tax, and ultimately it only takes three to vote in favor of a tax hike or referendum.
Regarding people who took the time to attend the meeting and voice opposition to the new taxes, Champion said, “They are the same people that hate everything.” It is unfair for Champion to brand his constituents as hateful just because they oppose this tax hike.
If passed, a portion of the increased taxes would be used to build a Hernando Beach parking lot and “ecological” Boardwalk that would span Rogers Park, the water-park development of lakes in the Weekiwachee Preserve, and Linda Pedersen Park.
Meanwhile, weeds have cropped up in the small area of white sand at Pedersen Park and signs warning people to stay out are the only visible signs of progress since April.
The new recreational taxes would go towards developing Weekiwachee Preserve lakes for paddle-boarding, an Aquatic Pool (swimming pool), biking trails, an indoor gymnasium, and adding sports fields – even a dog park was thrown in for the east side of the county.
In response to the county survey promoting the new half-cent sales tax that would raise the County sales tax rate from 6.5 cents to 7 cents, only 40.6% of registered participants said they would vote for it – hardly a ringing endorsement.
Hernando County has been notably slow in addressing issues concerning roads however, property values have increased significantly as they have nationwide which benefits county tax-rolls. Businesses are moving to Florida and to this county and they pay taxes. The county should use its existing revenue gains to build and maintain recreational venues. This is the wrong time for creating a new sales tax to fund recreational facilities if there is ever a right time.
The Hernando County School Board on Sept. 7 voted 5-0 to approve an increased millage rate of 6.777 – about a 20% jump from the previous year that pushed property taxes up significantly. Anyone who has filled up their tank in the past year knows that inflation is real as does anyone who has bought steaks or other meat products for a barbeque or family gathering. Commissioners, like so many politicians these days, are out of touch with their base.
Sure, we’d all like to see the county take more of an interest in our roadways. However, people are just now coming out of a punishing pandemic that destroyed businesses and saw people laid off in droves. This is not the time to raise sales taxes to build recreational facilities; it is a time for the county to tighten its belt and focus on roads.
Recently, the state of Florida has been generous to Hernando County, granting tens of millions of dollars to protect our springs and resources long ignored by the county. If Mr. Champion and his fellow commissioners want to build proper recreational areas, use some of that money. Turning the Weekiwachee Preserve into a water park might seem like a good idea, but it is not a reason to raise taxes on the entire county.
Larry Clifton is a freelance writer and author of the book, Martin’s Secret, which is available on Amazon in print and digital versions. A lifelong Florida resident who currently resides in Spring Hill, Clifton is NAUI certified in scuba diving and is an FAA-certified drone operator.
Editor’s Note: This article has been edited to remove specific remarks that did not meet our guidelines for opinion pieces.