- An item concerning Hartland Homes’s unsolicited bid to purchase public land from the county was postponed until the November 5th meeting of the BOCC because of a paperwork error. The company is owned by Blaise Ingoglia, our state representative, who routinely contributes to the Hernando County Republican Party, which in turn has contributed to many of the sitting county commissioners.
- The long awaited Bayport Pier reconstruction will start this month. At almost $920,000, 75% of the project will be eligible for FEMA reimbursement.
- The Hernando County Public Library presented on the many services and materials made available to the public by our library system. From workshops to hotspots and laptops, the library is far more than just books and magazines. While Commissioner Holcomb commended the library for their good work, he suggested that they look into public-private partnerships with the Hernando County Chamber of Commerce. This update is part of a project to rebrand and market the library to the community more effectively.
- Commissioner Allocco mentioned that the county could look into the ReConnect Loan & Grant Program, which offers assistance from the Department of Agriculture to private companies for expanding rural broadband. The commissioner made it clear that the local government should not take on the responsibility of offering internet access, but the county does need competition to counter the de facto monopoly that is Spectrum; however, community broadband is affordable for taxpayers and ensures that the residents retain control of their public utilities.
The commission continues to put private enterprise before everything else, despite the fact that public dollars and services ensure the safety and quality of life of Hernando County residents. Moreover, many of the businesses earning contracts, property, and praise from the commission are the same companies owned by, or contributing to, the politically established. Hernando County needs a champion of the public commons. Hernando County needs a representative for the rest of us.
You can view this meeting’s materials here.
- As the budget for the year has been passed, the commission is now looking to the future. Planning and Zoning Director Ron Pianta gave a presentation on the history of impact fees in Hernando County, as the topic has sparked contentious debates over the past few years. Impact fees are a revenue stream paid by developers and builders whose houses and businesses will draw more people to the area and, in turn, increase the demand on our public services. There are strict laws governing the levying and use of impact fees. For instance, impact fees can only be used for capital improvements related to growth and must be collected at no higher than a rate determined by models using timely data accurately projecting the cost of growth. Impact fees are recalibrated around every 5 years. Impact fees could not be used to directly solve the deficit in the general fund, but diversifying revenue streams can help the commission avoid dipping into the general fund unnecessarily.
- The Hernando County School Board, via Superintendent John Stratton, presented the school board’s proposed impact fees for the upcoming year as well. Both school board and county impact fees were affected by the Great Recession and either stalled or reduced to soften the impact on development, which has left budgets constrained. As the last study was performed in 2005, it is well past time that appropriate impact fees for sustainable growth are recalculated. All 5 school board members spoke in favor of an increase, with Susan Duval, Linda Prescott, and Kay Hatch all requesting the full increase from $2133 to $6352. Commissioner Champion suggested that schools do not need to be “fancy,” and “boxy” schools will do just fine — a mindset that our State Representative Blaise Ingoglia shares.
- Commissioner Champion expressed interest in creating an ordinance requiring a supermajority vote to increase any fee or levy any tax by the Hernando BOCC. Commissioner Mitten pointed out that it requires only a 3-2 vote to remove or put in place a supermajority requirement, and attorney Garth Coller confirmed that requirements for votes on taxes and fees are set by the state legislature and cannot be changed by the commission. The myth that taxes are no more than “stealing money from [the residents]” was repeated by all the commissioners.
- The BOCC established new ordinances regarding tent sales and backyard chickens. Residents were previously required to get written permission from their neighbors before they could have backyard chickens. This rule was set in place to protect property values, but the commission found it to be invasive and removed the requirement. In an effort to combat unlicensed and out of county businesses, the commission unanimously passed ordinances restricting tent sales and food trucks. Tent sales must be related to the business already on the property, and food trucks must only be on private property with written permission from the property owner.
- The Board approved their holiday calendar for the upcoming year — not without controversy. As the 2019-2020 budget was passed with a raise in the millage, but insufficient revenue or cuts to fully right the ship, the commission continues to seek a weakening of their contract with the Teamsters. Items such as pay raises, paid holidays, health benefits, and more are determined by the union contract. The commission expressed dissatisfaction with the amount of paid holidays awarded to employees, even when Human Resources Director Christi Charlow confirmed that the amount of holidays is comparable to that of similar organizations. With their patriotism checked by costs, multiple commissioners voiced their concern with paying workers for the Fourth of July holiday. As efforts are made to cut expenses and increase or hold steady services, the commission is jumping at the chance to balance its budget on the backs of its employees.
The budget may be approved, but Hernando County is not done talking about money. While the commissioners repeated that this particular board exhibits conservative values, Commissioner Champion inquired as to whether the state legislature could step in and restrict taxes. It would seem that Hernando County’s Republican leadership is perfectly fine with “big government” telling us what to do, so long as the regulations are favored by the commissioners. Propagating the myth that taxes are synonymous with theft is irresponsible. While this may be news to some: we live in a society, together. As the county continues to grow, it becomes more and more imperative that we consider not just which buildings to build, but what kind of community we are building for ourselves and how are we funding it.
You can view this meeting’s materials here.