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Wednesday, Apr 01, 2015

Taxes, fees likely to rise

Jeff Schmucker Hernando Today
Published:   |   Updated: May 7, 2013 at 05:10 PM

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No matter which way you look at it, property owners are looking at paying more in taxes and fees to the city of Brooksville based on preliminary budget numbers.

During Tuesday's public meeting, city council approved tentatively setting the tax rate at 7.5 mills — an increase of 1.13 mills from last year that would generate roughly $2.8 million in revenue, or $431,079 more than if council members kept the tax levy at the same 6.37 rate as last budget year.

For someone who owns a $150,000 home — and $50,000 home exemption — he or she would pay $750 to the city, $113 more than the $637 a similar property owner would pay a year ago.

City Manager Jennene Norman-Vacha reminded council members and the public that by setting the tentative tax levy, council members essentially set the ceiling as to how high they're willing to set the rate. That means they can approve to lower — but not increase — that tax rate from the 7.5 amount.

However, Vacha painted anything but a rosy picture for the upcoming budget and warned council members they had rough choices ahead.

While planning out the budget at the increased tax rate, she said management have run out of areas to cut and are at their bare-bones. There's nothing slated for capital improvements and equipment or facilities.

Meanwhile, prices are slated to increase for fuel, supplies, insurance coverage and other areas.

"Reduction in the preliminary budget will be achieved only through the elimination of people, programs or services," Vacha read from a prepared report.

One option is for council members to approve charging home and business owners fire fees as well as taxing them for the same service, which would have them paying a base fee of $106 along with .77889 per $1,000 worth of improvements to their property.

If approved, Vacha estimates that staff could lower the tax rate to 6.58 mills — an increase of .2134 mills.

That means a property owner with a $150,000 home and $50,000 home exemption would pay $21 more than an owner with a similarly valued home.

Council member Kevin Hohn indicated that council members had a lot of work ahead of them.

In response to Council Member Joe Bernardini asking what council members were willing to cut, Hohn questioned whether it was time the city merged its fire department with the county, which he estimates would save the city roughly $2 million while not losing services.

The idea was opposed by Vice Mayor Lara Bradburn, who said the city would most likely lose service because she believes the response time would be slower under the county in spite of both entities sharing the same building.

"Right now, this is the most important job we do all year," Hohn said, "and we have to be practical rather than sentimental."

Meanwhile, a budget workshop is slated for 6 p.m. Aug. 14 at City Hall. (352) 544-5271

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