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Monday, Mar 30, 2015

Reserve fund empty

Published:   |   Updated: May 15, 2013 at 10:55 AM

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County Administrator Len Sossamon said Hernando County needs to give some special assistance to marketing the area through the economic development department.

But how to do that is the question.

“Right now, if we put together a (marketing) program like that, there’s no money in the bank,” Sossamon said.

The money set aside in a designated fund would provide incentives for businesses, like the expansion of Accuform Signs in the industrial park, he added.

One possible avenue, raiding the judicial reserve fund set up about three years ago to secure additional courtroom space, is out of the question.

That fund, which once stood at $12 million, is depleted since it was used to prop up budget shortfalls the last few years and pay for various projects.

County commissioners had tapped the fund the last few years to make up revenue shortfalls, pay $5 million to finish up the dredge project, take care of a backlog of Medicaid billing and other uses, said Assistant county administrator of Budget and Business Development George Zoettlein.

The little that did remain was transferred to the general fund, Zoettlein said.

“My intent there was, since the judicial reserve fund is no longer a judicial reserve fund because it’s been depleted, is to set up a Multiple Service Taxing Unit that will secure funds so we could market Hernando County in a better fashion than we’ve marketed it,” Sossamon said.

But county commissioners Tuesday rejected the MSTU idea.

County Commission Chairman Dave Russell said there is no question there needs to be money set aside for economic marketing.

But the county can do that through earmarking funds for projects as they come up out of the general fund. There doesn’t need to be a special taxing unit set aside for the purpose, he said.

“To me, that’s redundant,” Russell said.

An MSTU doesn’t set up new money and there is no “magic revenue stream” just by setting it up.

The county has been marketing itself all along and can continue to do through a judicious use of existing general fund revenue, he said.

“We’re spending more on business development here in Hernando County,” Russell said. “You can’t overstate the importance of economic development. You want to make sure you have funds to market the county.”

County commissioners will likely discuss alternatives at a future meeting.

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