County Administrator Jeff Rogers presented an update on the progress of the “Half-Cent Local Government Infrastructure Surtax for Roadways and Recreation” at the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) meeting on June 28, 2022. The one-half-cent sales tax referendum is slated for the November 8, 2022 ballot. If approved, the new tax rate will be effective January 1, 2023, and the generated tax revenue will be used to fund roadway and recreation projects.
A Citizen’s Oversight Committee will be assembled to govern the new fund.
Rogers reported that two external performance audits are required and are currently underway. “The purpose is to audit current transportation and parks and recreation funds to ensure adequate controls are in place to receive additional funding.” The final results are expected on July 15, 2022. The audits are required by Florida Statute (212.055(11)), and the state Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability has selected Mauldin & Jenkins, LLP.
The additional sales tax revenue will mean extra money for roadways and recreation while Commissioners seek to reduce the millage rate for property owners in the 2022-23 Fiscal Year (FY). The attractiveness of the sales tax is that it will be paid by anyone who makes purchases in the county, not only property owners. These purchasers account for approximately 30% of the sales tax collected.
80% of the fund will go to road projects that will relieve existing and future traffic congestion. The remaining 20% for recreation will provide additions to parks and recreational areas, which have reportedly not kept up with the increase in population and demand.
A common question asked is why gas taxes and impact fees are not sufficient to fund these projects. Gas tax revenues are relatively stable year to year, are based on gallons purchased, and do not adjust to inflation. Total tax collected in 2019 was $11,728,750. The number went down in 2020 to $10,793,998. In 2021 the number was $11,509,801.
Impact fees, to simplify the process — is slow. Impact fees collected can only be applied to projects in the districts they were collected from. In Rogers’ example, the widening of Barclay Road which costs $25 million, will take 5 years before enough impact fee funding could be obtained for a local match for a $6.4 million grant.
Community education on the referendum has begun in the form of fliers included in utility bills, handouts, and bulletin boards. The bulletin boards are to be placed in several indoor and outdoor venues:
Parks and Recreation
East Library Branch
West Library Branch
Main Library Branch
Spring Hill Library Branch
Veteran’s Services/Housing Authority
Hernando CountyAnimal Services
Hernando County Extension
Hernando County Public Works
Hernando County Utilities
Hernando County Development Services
Hernando County Administration
Brooksville – Tampa Bay Regional Airport (BKV)
Exterior billboards are to be set up at the following locations:
Pine Island Gatehouse
Rotary Dog Park
Ernie Wever Park
Veteran’s Park Ridge Manor Park
Anderson Snow Park
Delta Woods Park
Organizations that have given their written endorsement supporting the surtax are; The Greater Hernando Chamber of Commerce, Hernando County Builders’ Association, and Hernando County Economic Development-Airport, Technical Advisory Committee (EDA-TAC).
The county has reached out to several groups and organizations, including the YMCA Advisory Board, City of Brooksville, Brooksville Rotary Club, Kiwanis of the Adventure Coast, Hernando County Builders’ Association, Hernando Progress, NFL Flag Football, Spring Hill Eagles, Hernando Youth League Soccer, and the Hernando Soccer Club.
Outreach venues are Politics in the Park on July 14, Chamber Breakfast on August 24, September’s Friday Night Live, and NFL Flag Football Spring Hill on September 10. In October and November Hernando Youth League and Spring Hill Dixie Softball will receive information on their opening days.