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Council eyes event fees

Jeff Schmucker Hernando Today
Published:   |   Updated: May 7, 2013 at 06:16 PM

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Council members could again start granting fee waivers to local organizations that put on special events in the city, which could save those groups hundreds to more than a thousand dollars.

However, the city council would first have to agree to a policy that would help them decide which groups should receive a pass and which should be forced to pay.

Along with approving the 2012-13 budget Wednesday, Brooksville city council members also voted 3-2 to add back in $7,000 to cover the cost of fee waivers to groups for city events such as the Christmas and veterans parades.

Mayor Joe Johnston III and Councilman Joe Bernardini voted against the measure. Bernardini said he didn't want to approve putting money in the budget until a policy was approved to fairly determine for which groups fees should be waived. Johnston agreed.

However, Councilman Kevin Hohn argued putting the money in the budget for fee waivers would better put council members' feet to the fire to act on the matter.

"Otherwise, we're just going to keep kicking this down the road like we have for the past year," Hohn said.

Last year council members reluctantly opted to do away with the practice of waiving fees — which covered the cost of street closures, staff overtime and other costs to the city.

Hohn at that time argued that the council was showing favoritism to some groups and not others.

City Manager Jennene Norman-Vacha said her staff is putting together a draft proposal for the council to consider, and added the matter will be on the Oct. 15 meeting agenda.

* * * * *

In other business, city council members approved the 2012-13 budget, which includes a tax rate of 6.6 mills and levies a fire service fee on property owners — budgeted to collect roughly $400,000.

The tax rate means a property owner with a $150,000 home and $50,000 home exemption would pay $23 more than an owner with a similarly valued home last year when the tax levy was set at 6.37.

Staff reports show they also would pay a minimum $71 fee for fire protection — which they also pay for through taxes. The fee could be more, based on improvements to their property.

Although the fee collection is set at $400,000, estimates suggest that the city would actually collect 95 percent of the fees owed, or $380,000.

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