The commissioners’ focus at the September 13, 2022, First Budget Hearing was to cut spending. Most vocal about the challenges faced by citizens to meet a rising tax bill, Chairman Steve Champion and Commissioner Jeff Holcomb warned before the vote that they would oppose the proposed budget considering its added burden to property owners in the face of national inflation.
Commissioners sent Budget Director Toni Brady back to the proverbial drawing board during a nearly 45-minute recess to reduce the General Fund millage rate and cut spending elsewhere to make up the difference. Brady returned with an amended budget transferring roughly $1.8 million back into the General Fund.
$30,000 slated for TBARTA (Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority) funding, $650,000 for Hunter’s Lake, and $250,000 for Pine Island dredging were trimmed from the proposed final budget. The new budget also relies on $900,000 from Capital Reserves.
The revised General Fund millage rate was set at 6.9912. This is 7.56% over the rollback rate of 6.4998. The rollback rate refers to the rate which would produce revenue equal to the previous year’s rate. Essentially, taxes that produce general fund revenues are increasing by 7.56%.
The proposed general fund millage rate was 7.1412, which would have been a 9.87% increase over the rollback rate. This was also the maximum millage rate set at the July 5, 2022 workshop.
All other proposed millage rates remained unchanged at this meeting.
Chairman Steve Champion led the ensuing discussion, not wavering from his viewpoint during previous meetings that he is adamantly opposed to raising taxes. His primary directive to Brady was to amend the budget using the 6.9912 millage.
The result of the changes is a total tentative budget of $661,903,567, which is still $14,478,142 above the recommended budget of $647,425,425.
During the Citizens’ Comments segment, several homeowners expressed alarm at the rate of recent tax increases. Also mentioned was a substantial increase in property valuation and the mandatory MSBU (Municipal Services Benefit Unit) that will affect property owners who face mandatory septic to sewer conversion in the next few years.
The final budget hearing will take place on September 27, 2022, at 5:01 PM at the Hernando County Courthouse John Law Ayers Commission Chambers, Room 160, 20 North Main Street, Brooksville, FL 34601.
CORRECTION: The original article stated that the total tentative budget was $14,478,142 below the recommended budget which was incorrect. We apologize for the error.