Just say 'no' to solid-waste tax hike
Hernando TodayThe issue: Solid-waste assessment fee hike. Our opinion: County government plays another shell game.
Published: May 3, 2009
Published: May 3, 2009
Like slick, boisterous salesmen on infomercials who offer 50, 60, up to even an unbelievable 75 percent off, Hernando County commissioners would like taxpayers to believe they're going to be getting a "real deal" when they set annual solid-waste assessment fees in June.
After all, they have no plans to raise rates as much as 62 percent, from the current $63.05 to $102 annually. They would never do that, even though that's what Utilities Director Joseph Stapf has said would be a worst-case scenario.
It's a shell game.
Stapf said it's essential solid-waste assessments be increased to help pay for the added cost of transporting garbage to other facilities out of county until a new cell at the county's Northwest landfill is completed as well as to pay for the new cell. Stapf isn't sure yet exactly how much those costs are going to total - it's in the double-digit millions - but the worst-case scenario would require a hefty increase.
Never fear, our county commissioners aren't going to even consider a 62 percent hike. No, it will be much smaller. More like a cut. Yeah, a cut. It could have been 62 percent, but it's going to be cut to a lower percentage.
Chairman David Russell said he could support something in the high $70 to low $80 range. Commissioner Jeff Stabins said he could not support a 62 percent increase, noting commissioners would be "flogged" by taxpayers if that occurred.
Now there's an idea.
Commissioner Jim Adkins said he didn't support a rate hike.
That's the rate hike we prefer - zero. Thanks, Commissioner Adkins, for understanding taxpayers can't take any more lashings in this economy.
This proposed rate hike is a classic government bait and switch. County officials say they are going to charge taxpayers more than they actually intend, so that when a lower figure is agreed on they can say it's a cut.
With $181 million in investments - some as long as five-year notes - and another $37.6 million in carry-over funds stuffing the county's treasure chest, why in the world should property taxpayers have to shoulder another tax increase, especially one for solid waste?
Commissioners need to pay for this with funds they already have from obvious over-taxation of the past.
If county officials had planned properly and the Department of Environmental Protection wasn't so full of red tape and worked at a snail's pace, taxpayers wouldn't be in this predicament.
Perhaps county officials also need to explain what the current $63.05 assessment pays for each year.
Let's keep it at $63.05. Taxpayers can hardly afford that in this brutal economy.