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Home2022 ElectionHalf cent sales tax referendum approved for ballot

Half cent sales tax referendum approved for ballot

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At the regular meeting on February 22, 2022, the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) voted unanimously to approve the pending ordinance that will put a referendum on the November ballot, giving Hernando County voters a choice to pass a 1/2 cent sales tax that will fund revenues to channel to roadway and recreation efforts.

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If passed, the ordinance will remain in place for ten years. It could be renewed.

The language of the ballot referendum is as follows:

TO ENHANCE THE QUALITY OF LIFE FOR HERNANDO COUNTY’S
RESIDENTS, SHALL HERNANDO COUNTY LEVY A 1/2-CENT SALES TAX.
THE PROCEEDS OF WHICH SHALL BE EXCLUSIVELY USED TO REDUCE
TRAFFIC CONGESTION, TO CONSTRUCT AND IMPROVE ROADWAYS,
AND TO CREATE AND IMPROVE PARKS AND OTHER RECREATIONAL
FACILITIES, WITH HERNANDO COUNTY’S USE OF THE PROCEEDS TO BE
SUBJECT TO CITIZEN OVERSIGHT?
____ YES – FOR THE 1/2-CENT SALES TAX
____ NO – AGAINST THE 1/2-CENT SALES TAX

The board is going forward with this referendum based on need, and the expected reduction of millage rates during the next Fiscal Year (FY). Chairman Steve Champion said, “I’ve been battling this … I’m on the radio every week, and constantly get challenged on this, I’ve had millions of messages from business owners, saying, ‘Are you really supporting this?’”

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Champion added that the new tax is a “lot to put on the residents,” during this time of unprecedented inflation, and alongside the potential 1/2 cent sales tax for the Hernando County School District (HCSD) which would also appear on the ballot in November. “I’m afraid it’s going to go down in flames.”

Hernando County currently has a half-cent sales tax for school district capital improvements which was approved by voters in September 2015.

Commissioner Jeff Holcomb spoke about Pasco County’s 1 cent sales tax, which has resulted in significant structure and job growth. Also afraid the referendum will be voted down, Holcomb said, “It’s better than a property tax. We’re looking at … a reduction of the millage, and I’m glad to be a part of that.” He later added, “We don’t need to be cheap, we need to be smart and conservative, and forward-thinking.”

Commissioners have stated that they are committed to reducing the property tax millage should the voters approve the county’s half-cent sales tax.

Commissioner Beth Narverud thinks the timing is wrong. “I know we need it,” she said, but does not think it will get the votes alongside the HCSD 1/2 cent referendum, even if millage rates are reduced.

Commissioner John Allocco doesn’t understand how anyone who owns property would not be in favor of the bill. Rather than limiting the tax to homeowners, anyone who shops in Hernando County will pay the tax bill. “It’s our job to provide the best plan possible.”

Citing roadways that need to be repaired, Commissioner Wayne Dukes is also in favor of the 1/2 cent tax. “We’re going to make your roads nice! For a half a cent!” he said, regarding the education of county residents on the value the tax will provide.

The next segment on the agenda was the list of specific projects to be funded by the new tax, to begin funding in January 2023.

How the tax money is spent is governed by Florida statute 212.055(2), which in part lists “financing, planning, and construction of infrastructure,” “Providing for the needs of the judiciary,” “Providing for energy conservation and efficiency,” and states, “Additionally, the statute allows for up to 15% of the sales tax to be deposited into a trust fund for the purpose of funding economic development projects having a general public purpose of improving local economies, including the funding of operational costs and incentives related to economic development.”

If passed, the total revenue generated by the half-cent tax is estimated to be $138,980,330. The county is planning to spend $110,982,810 on roads, and $27,995,020 on recreation.

Projects on the half-cent sales tax list that have been in the news lately include County Line Road, Kettering Road SR 50 to Power Line Road, the Weekiwachee Preserve ECO Tour boardwalk, aquatic center, boat ramp improvements, and new dog parks on both sides of the county.

half-cent-sales-tax-project-list
Lisa MacNeil
Lisa MacNeil
Lisa MacNeil is a reporter for the Hernando Sun as well as a business technology developer, specializing in website development, content management systems, and data analysis.
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