The Rundown: September 2019

BOCC 9/24/19 — Regular & Budget Meetings

  • The meeting kicked off with an annual update from Cooperative Extension services. Various employees and volunteers detailed the accomplishments of Extension’s services over the past year: 4H programs, financial planning services, lawn care and garden assistance, and more. The commissioners agreed that the return on investment for such public programs was worth the funding.
  • Cemex once again appeared, this time seeking approval for their Master Mining Plan Approval Application. While Commissioner Allocco expressed concern that various supplemental documents were unavailable to him and the public before the hearing, Commissioners Dukes, Commissioner Champion, and Planning and Zoning Director, Ron Pianta, insisted that no one would want to read all of the technical information and Cemex was a trusted partner. After an additional 14 pages were included in the packet, the board approved the Master Mining Plan 5-0.
  • Commissioners voted 4-1 to raise water and sewer fees over the next 5 years. Our previous 5 year fee schedule will be expiring. Our fees will continue to be the lowest compared to nearby counties, but will raise by 5% every year for sewer fees and 2.5-5% for water fees. For the average customer (using both water and sewer) services rates will raise from approximately $62 to approximately $66 next year. 
  • The BOCC voted to suspend their reserve policy. The policy requires the reserve balance to be 18.5% of the General Fund budget. Due to the deficit in the General Fund, the BOCC will not be able to bring in enough revenue to reach that target this year. 
  • The BOCC voted to approve the $528 million budget, $107 million of which is in the General Fund. In addition, they approved an increased millage rate of 7.8912. Approximately 56% of the General Fund comes from Ad Valorem taxes, while about 49% goes toward public safety.
  • Despite calls for additional budget cuts from many of the commissioners, no additional cuts were made at this meeting. Administrator Rogers has already eliminated over $1 million dollars from the General Fund budget this year, but the consulting firm he hired to help balance the budget has confirmed that the 1 mill increase that was passed will not be sufficient for a full recovery over the coming years.

With the budget process for this fiscal year winding down, Hernando County residents have another year to consider what kind of community we want to be living in. Next year we will have more decisions to make about what kind of services we should provide, how we should pay for those services, and who we want representing us during these difficult times. As extension services showed today, our county departments are doing a lot with a little. We need solutions that will provide us with a sustainable budget — not cries for service cuts to already underfunded county programs.

Commissioner Holcomb made the most absurd comment
 “Bad guys do bad things, bad guys do bad things with guns; so we have to have people there with guns to be there to protect us.” — Commissioner Holcomb’s nuanced explanation for funding the HCSO

You can view these meetings’ materials here and here.

BOCC 9/10/19

  • Legislative requests were reviewed in preparation for the upcoming Legislative Delegation Meeting. This is the time when local governments can inform their state senators and representatives about their needs.
  • The Hernando County Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) was approved. These plans usually have a five year span and serve as a guide for improvements costing more than $50,000 and lasting more than 10 years. Public Works and Hernando County Utilities require the largest amount of funding within the CIP.
  • The BOCC voted to expand upon the recently approved Cemex mine near Brooksville Bayfront Hospital and the historic African American Cemetery. Cemex is a powerful local company and political donor. This expansion occurred despite years of public outcry and lawsuits. Commissioner Dukes commented that he was glad that the public outcry against Cemex and its mining operation was finally silenced. As the environment faces further degradation and the surrounding homes’ quality of living is diminishing, Commissioner Champion praised Cemex and expects the multinational corporation to bring about 100 years of good for the community. 
  • Commissioner Champion suggested that the commission should write a letter to Governor DeSantis concerning their fears that the 2nd amendment is under attack. After Commissioner Alloco voiced his fear of the 1st Amendment being eroded as well and Commissioner Mitten pointed out that singling out the second amendment may appear self-serving of Commissioner Champion, the commission decided the best use of their time was to pen a letter about how — as constitutional officers — they support the constitution. Commission Champion reassured the viewers that he obviously feels passionately about the whole constitution, pointing out that he has it tattooed on his arm. 
  • Commissioner Dukes opined on the perpetrators of 9/11, saying, “They were called what they were: Muslims…Terrorists.” As an elected official and human being that has had 18 years to study the matter, Dukes continues to propagate the racist trope that all Muslims are terrorists. No commissioner spoke to the violence and fear being spread by white supremacists that are actual domestic terrorists. Instead, again Dukes opined, “A crazy person shoots us with a gun, [the government] takes all of our guns. What’s wrong with that picture?”

A lot. There has hardly been any meaningful response to the almost daily mass shootings in the United States, but since  9/11 we have been living in an enhanced security state. What guns are being seized from the residents of Hernando County? The current commission prefers jumping at shadows to actually responding to  the needs of our families and neighbors. After years of community activists fighting back against a multinational behemoth, the expansion of mining sought by Cemex was approved with hardly a whisper. With campaign donations from Cemex and their cadre of experts, the commission has again chosen to ignore the residents of Hernando County. They will not be able to ignore the voters of Hernando County.

Commissioner Champion has most absurd remark
“The conservatives don’t have a voice, only the liberals have a voice.” — Commissioner Champion, 1 of 5 ultraconservatives representing Hernando County

You can view this meeting’s materials here.

BOCC 9/11/19 — Budget Meeting

  • Of every $1 in taxes collected by Hernando County, 53 cents goes to the county, 45 cents goes to the school district, a penny goes to the water district, and the rest is miscellaneous. 
  • Commissioner Champion repeatedly questioned Sheriff Al Nienhuis about cutting his department’s spending. 86% of the cost of the Sheriff’s Office is linked to personnel. Like much of Hernando County, cutting costs translates into cutting jobs.
  • Commissioner Champion also alleged that half of the residents of Hernando County do not pay property tax. Some homes pay no property taxes because they are below the $50,000 homestead exemption. Renters in the county do not pay property taxes directly, but landlords simply pass this cost on to them with higher rental rates. Along with the commissioner, some property owners favored an increase in sales tax — a regressive form of taxation. 
  • After giving a mildly impassioned speech about how much the departments  in Hernando County have already cut and pointing out that any further reductions will deeply impact our quality of life in Hernando, Commissioner Allocco ended the meeting with a call for more cuts. The commissioner stated that services need to be adjusted and constitutionals (sheriff, supervisor of elections,  clerk of court) need to make cuts. In a moment of candidness, County Administrator Jeff Rogers proclaimed that government should only do what isn’t profitable. 
  • In a 3-2 vote, the tentative millage rate was increased and the budget set. This can be changed at the next budget meeting, but only by decreasing values. The next and final budget meeting will be on September 24th.

You can view this meeting’s materials here.