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Thursday, Mar 26, 2015

County reduces tax rate slightly


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BROOKSVILLE - County commissioners closed the book on another budget season Tuesday by adopting a millage rate and overall budget for 2013-14.

At press time, the exact numbers were not finalized. County commissioners asked Assistant County Administrator of Budget and Business Development George Zoettlein to reconfigure the millage rate now that Sheriff Al Nienhuis has given back $700,000.

But they agreed that the rate would only represent a .95 mill increase, instead of the proposed 1 mill increase.

That would mean the final approved budget would be close to $394 million, of which some $92 million represents the general fund.

They previously decided a general fund tax rate of 6.9169 mills would go down slightly. Given the board's directive, that would be 6.8669. A mill is equal to $1 for every $1,000 in taxable value.

With a 1 mill increase, the average person with a house valued at $100,000 and with a $50, 000 homestead exemption, would pay about $50 more a year. The reworked tax rate would save taxpayers another $2 or so a year.

Commission Chairman Dave Russell said he knows that is not a huge difference but any savings the county can find must be turned back to the taxpayers.

Resident Joan Lynch cited low household incomes of Hernando County residents and asked the board not to raise the millage rate.

She said 48 percent of the population is age 55 and older.

"The tax burden is put on the people who can least afford it," Lynch said.

Resident Hamilton Hanson said not enough was done to find other revenue sources.

"I'm terribly disappointed it has worked out the way it has," he said.

Larry Ball of Weeki Wachee said he is a retiree and has limited income. He urged the board to "be very careful with the people's dollars."

"I love it here," he said. "Don't make me regret it."

Zoettlein said the county has cut staffers from 300 to about 160 and has tried to save money.

County Commissioner Diane Rowden said the county has dug deep into its reserves the last several years and can no longer do so if the quality of life is to stay high.

"Nobody wants (an) increase but I think the reality is, people do want the services," Rowden said.

The new fiscal year budget goes into effect Oct. 1.

Hernando Today will post the complete millage numbers on its website Wednesday.

(352) 544-5290

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