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Commissioners praise budget

Staffers outline the $184.2-million package that's up 2.8 percent over this year's budget and calls for tax relief.

By JENNIFER FARRELL

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 21, 2000


BROOKSVILLE -- Hernando County commissioners began scrutinizing the county's proposed 2000-01 budget on Thursday and appeared content with the initial $184.2-million package.

During a three-hour workshop during which county staffers outlined budget proposals for general government, growth and development, and public works, commissioners praised the spending plan, which calls for a tax-rate reduction of 25 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value.

"I thought the budget was pretty good," commission Chairman Paul Sullivan said at the meeting. "I think it meets the needs of the community while giving some tax relief, and that's what this is all about."

The overall proposed budget is up 2.8 percent from the current year. The general fund budget, which includes everything except self-supporting departments such as utilities and development, is tentatively set at $59.9-million, an increase of 5.8 percent.

Pointing to a 3.3 percent increase in inflation and a 3.4 percent population increase, County Administrator Paul McIntosh described the budget increases as modest by comparison.

The following initiatives were among those proposed during the workshop:

  • An expanded broadcast budget, up $36,313 from the current year, to provide added services on cable Channel 19.

  • A new grants development department, costing $86,676.

  • A new fleet-management division that would borrow $6.4-million from the general fund in start-up costs, repaying the sum over time by charging other departments as it replaces their vehicles.

  • Added staffing in the Building Division to implement a new building code that goes into effect next July and to accommodate increased demands for permitting and inspections.

  • Establishment of a mass-transit system, planned to be in operation by late 2001.

  • Expansion of the Anderson Snow Park Complex and Bayport Park and development of a recreation area in the Weekiwachee Preserve.

  • Continued progress on the residential road repaving program.

  • $50,000 to study the feasibility of a community swimming pool.

  • McIntosh said the county staff considered the following expenses but declined to recommend them, pending completion of a facilities master plan:

  • $500,000 for a 50-bed expansion of the county jail.

  • $500,000 for design and construction of a public swimming pool.

  • $800,000 to build an emergency operations center.

  • $500,000 for a parks maintenance building.

The workshops are scheduled to continue at 2 p.m. Monday. Budgets to be discussed include constitutional officers, public safety, utilities and the Economic Development Commission.

-- Information from Times files was used in this report.

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