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BOCC Modifies Whole Cent Tax Referendum Language and Scope

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The Hernando Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) voted unanimously during the March 26 meeting to amend language that will appear on the 2024 General Election ballot. The one-cent sales surtax referendum will appear on the ballot for the Nov. 6, 2024 election, asking for voter approval to fund law enforcement, public safety and transportation improvements.

The final changes were intended to simplify the referendum, reduce negative perceptions, and broaden the scope of targeted projects.

The new language for the referendum is as follows:

WHOLE CENT FOR HERNANDO FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT, PUBLIC SAFETY, AND TRANSPORTATION IMPROVEMENTS

SHALL A ONCE-CENT SALES SURTAX BE LEVIED BEGINNING IN 2025 AND CONTINUING THROUGH 2054, AND SHARED BETWEEN HERNANDO COUNTY AND THE CITY OF BROOKSVILLE WITH THE PROCEEDS TO BE USED TO FUND INFRASTRUCTURE AND PUBLIC FACILITIES AS DEFINED BY LAW, AND OVERSEEN BY A CITIZEN COMMITTEE, INCLUDING:

LAW ENFORCEMENT AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE
PUBLIC SAFETY ROADS, TRAFFIC ALLEVIATION AND OTHER TRANSPORTATION

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Commissioners first changed the title to exclude “Economic Development Infrastructure,” since there were concerns the public could equate the language to “Corporate Welfare.” “Transportation Improvements” took its place.

“Water and Wastewater Utilities” was deleted from the original. County Administrator Jeff Rogers stated that it was originally included to create job opportunities related to Economic Development since that department is instrumental in bringing new business to the County.

According to County Attorney Jon Jouben, Economic Development Manager Valerie Pianta “wanted the ability to provide as a business incentive [that] the county would pay for the cost of connecting incoming businesses to water and wastewater, so that would be the only water and wastewater item that’s included the resolution that you will vote on …” referring to the related agenda item, approving the list of projects to be funded by the one-cent surtax.

Commissioners had additional clarifications relating to economic development. “The impression of ‘job creation’ many times looks like the government is trying to pick winners and losers … we should be creating the environment, but we shouldn’t be creating the jobs,” Commissioner John Allocco cautioned. Later, during the discussion of intended projects, Commissioner Brian Hawkins explained, “We didn’t want to incentivize businesses financially to move here. We wanted to be sure they have the correct infrastructure to move here.”

Commissioner Steve Champion was certain that voters would balk at the wording. “I think ‘Economic Development’ should not be in there at all. I don’t think ‘job creation’ should be in there at all.” Champion’s concern is that the referendum will fail if it contains language also used by the current Federal Administration. “Because these are talking points by this terrible president that talks all the time about how he’s creating jobs … If you want the citizens to vote for this, there’s no chance.”

The Board added a bulleted list of specific inclusions to further clarify the ballot item. Public Safety is specified separately from Law Enforcement to include other agencies, such as Animal Services, Fire Departments, and the Detention Center.

The original draft of the Ordinance:

WHOLE CENT FOR HERNANDO FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT PUBLIC SAFETY ROADWAY AND
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT INFRASTRUCTURE

SHALL A ONE-CENT SALES SURTAX BE LEVIED, BEGINNING IN 2025 AND CONTINUING THROUGH 2054, AND SHARED BETWEEN HERNANDO COUNTY AND THE CITY OF BROOKSVILLE, WITH THE PROCEEDS TO BE USED TO FUND INFRASTRUCTURE AND PUBLIC FACILITIES, AS DEFINED BY LAW, AND OVERSEEN BY A CITIZEN COMMITTEE, THAT RELATE TO LAW ENFORCEMENT AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE; ROADS AND OTHER TRANSPORTATION FACILITIES; PUBLIC SAFETY; AND, WATER AND WASTEWATER UTILITIES?

In a related Agenda item, the Board unanimously approved a list of projects that will be allowed to receive funding from the surtax revenue. The list is expected to be amended over the 30-year period should the referendum pass in November.

The Economic Development department was not mentioned before the vote.

Public Safety
Public Safety Training Complex – Sheriff
Fire Station 16 Construction
Remodel of Station 9 Demo / Construct
Fire Logistics Warehouse
Animal Shelter Expansion
Public Safety Training Complex – Fire
Sheriff Operations Center Expansion
Public Safety Training Complex – EOC (Emergency Operations Center)
Fire Station 17 Land Acquisition Design and Construction
Public Safety Building for Mosquito Control
Fire Station 18 Land Acquisition Design and Construction
Detention Center Complex Upgrades [Phase 1] (Medical / Mental Health Facility, Maintenance Building and Warehouse, Youthful Offender Unit, Renovation of two-story existing building for future use, and Temporary Visitation building)

Roads
County Line Road
Barclay Widening
Sunshine Grove Road 4-Laning from Ken Austin Parkway to Hexam
Kettering Road SR 50 to Power Line Road
Ayers / Culbreath / Hayman Intersection
Cortez Oaks (SR-50 to Star Rd)
Lockhart Road from SR-50 to Dashbach
Anderson Snow Road Widening
Improving Pickup / Drop-off Lanes for Schools
Roadway Improvements

Economic Development
Capital Projects Directly Related to Job-Creating Economic Growth

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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