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Tuesday, Mar 31, 2015

County vows to fund library services


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County commissioners Tuesday vowed to keep existing library services intact and will find a funding source to make that happen.

One of those sources will not be a Multiple Service Taxing Unit (MSTU), which would have created a special taxing unit to fund the library system.

Te board voted 4-1 against it, saying it could lead to administrative red tape and would probably create more problems than it would solve.

“Everyone here is committed to adequately funding the library service,” Commission Chairman Dave Russell said.

The state aid to libraries grant program has been used to fund the majority of the library services the past few fiscal years. But that funding source is diminishing and the majority of funding for fiscal year 2014 will need to be provided by the general fund or some other funding option.

One option, used by other local governments, is the use of an MSTU, which would provide library services with a dedicated funding source and provide accountability for how revenue is allocated.

Russell said the board has the ability to fund the libraries based on its general fund budget and didn’t need to consider a taxing district to raise some $2 million to continue current operations level.

County Commissioner Diane Rowden supported the creation of an MSTU because it would have provided an identifiable funding source if needed.

Libraries are too important to the community and residents planning a move to Hernando County will think twice if they are not here, she said.

“If they’re not funded, they won’t move here,” Rowden said.

Assistant County Administrator for Budget and Business Development George Zoettlein said the MSTU would create better accountability because it would break down for taxpayers on their Truth in Millage (TRIM) notices exactly what they are paying toward libraries.

But Russell said he wanted to keep the process simple and didn’t believe taxpayers cared all that much about an MSTU.

Further discussion on libraries will occur during this summer’s budget talks.

Also Tuesday:

County commissioners voted unanimously to cut in half William Kochounian’s contract to run the concession at Pine Island Park during January, February and March.

Kochounian will pay the county $2,250 those three months instead of $4,500 because of fewer winter customers.

In May 2011, commissioners approved a five-year contract with a 12-month renewal for Kochounian to operate Willy’s Tropical Breeze.

Kochounian has been a fixture on Pine Island for more than 20 years.

Assistant County Administrator for General Services Russ Wetherington said Kochounian approached the county about amending his contract. Wetherington then verified that revenue is down considerably those three months.

“He could close for those three months and the county’s net would still be the same, but we do not want him to close,” Wetherington said in an email.

With little discussion, county commissioners voted 4-1 to expand Spring Hill’s mandatory garbage collection area to include another 1,250 homes.

County Commissioner Wayne Dukes said he could not support expansion because it would be “violating the trust” residents placed in Hernando County government.

To see the expanded section, visit

Commissioners tabled discussion until May 7 of whether Hernando County Animal Services will discontinue loaning traps to residents to capture neighborhood cats.

County Administrator Len Sossamon said he will meet Friday with his assistant administrators and Human Resources about updating annual employee performance evaluations.

Commissioner Nick Nicholson is calling for more honest evaluations and believes some supervisors are not doing timely or accurate employee appraisals.

(352) 544-5290

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