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Thursday, Mar 26, 2015

County to discuss taxing unit for libraries


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Staring down a $2 million budget hole to fund libraries, county commissioners Tuesday approved scheduling a public hearing to discuss creating a special taxing unit that would bring in money and avoid branch closures or loss of services.

Residents indicated via town hall meetings and an online survey that libraries are important and there should be an open, honest debate, County Commission Chairman Dave Russell said.

Hernando County will consider following the route of other municipalities, which have created a Multiple Service Taxing Unit (MSTU) to fund library services.

County Commissioner Nick Nicholson said that would mean a quarter of a mill increase to taxpayers and generate $2 million to continue funding libraries at their current staffing level.

Nicholson said this would give libraries a steady funding source without having a debate every year about general fund deficits.

The public hearing, set for April 23, will also encompass a general discussion on the MSTU process.

Russell also recognized Library Services Manager Adam Brooks for the award recently granted Hernando County by the Florida Library Association.

The FLA named the county system 2013 library of the year.

Russell said the entire board was committed to maintaining the current level of service at area libraries.

Also Tuesday:

Resident Robert Rey voiced concerns about the operational protocol at the Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport.

“I’m not really sure who is in charge at the airport,” Rey said.

Rey added that it is important the airport present a unified voice when speaking of airport affairs.

Rey will meet with County Commissioner Diane Rowden, the board’s liaison to the airport aviation authority.

County Administrator Len Sossamon said the recently completed online citizens’ survey, which attracted about 800 responses, was illuminating.

While 56 percent said their quality of life is worse today than it was five years ago, 57 percent said they believe they will be better off in five years.

So the majority of people see a “brighter light ahead,” Sossamon said.

Public safety ranked the highest in important among residents and community development the lowest.

The survey found that the county is not meeting expectations of attracting and retaining business.

Sossamon said that likely results from the downturn in the economy.

“You can never have enough jobs, I guess,” he said.

Resident Joe Lemieux said one thing he would like to see result from this survey is to make it easier for businesses to open in the community.

Lemieux said he opened two health food stores in Hernando County and experienced problems in getting them off the ground.

The Metropolitan Planning Organization board voted unanimously to add hours to THE Bus so that riders will have more opportunities to get a ride home after work.

The board opted to add an additional loop to each route, and morning start times were moved forward by 20 minutes. The total estimated annual operating expense for these changes is about $68,500.

To see the new route hours, visit

(352) 544-5290

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