Solid waste, water/sewer rate hikes should be nixed
Hernando TodayThe issue: Solid waste and water/sewer rate hikes. Our opinion: Use newly found funds to pay for projects.
Published: May 24, 2009
Published: May 24, 2009
Lo and behold, several misplaced eggs laid by the county's golden goose (taxpayers) have been found!
Like old minutes on a certain cell phone plan, they're just as good as new tax dollars.
With county commissioners poised to raise annual solid waste assessments and water and sewer rates, millions of taxpayer dollars have been discovered! (Maybe in the drawers of an old filing cabinet somewhere on the hill in Brooksville, we're not quite sure.)
With all these newly discovered millions, commissioners should scrap plans to raise these costs on taxpayers and utility customers. That's good news for Hernando Countians mired in this current economic downturn.
We are delighted to learn that funds - other than tax and rate increases on folks who can ill afford them - have been located to deal with the county's solid waste dilemmas as well as the need to help fund $150 million in capital improvements to repair, expand and construct new water and sewer systems.
With so many millions lying around the government center, we were confident they'd find an extra bundle or two of cash somewhere to keep from having to stick it to the taxpayers and rate payers once again.
On Thursday, Commission Chairman Dave Russell told Hernando Today that he will ask his fellow commissioners to tap $4 million from the utility regulatory collections fund, which the county had set aside for a lawsuit. The county won the suit, but the money has been held in escrow because a final legal judgment had not been issued. That is until three or four months ago.
Amazing! Like walking down the street and having a $100 bill blow by right in front of you, you bend over and pick it up.
Russell said that money could be used to postpone for three or so years water and sewer rate hikes that commissioners were considering implementing during the next five years.
Meanwhile, Russell said he asked staff to look at "sweeping and scavenging" different existing funds, including a $2.1 million excess in the landfill closure fund the county is required to maintain by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Excess monies in that fund could be applied toward construction of the new landfill cell, thus, helping to stave off a hike in annual solid waste assessments that property owners pay on their property taxes.
Don't you just love it when millions in "excess" funds suddenly turn up in a landfill account? It truly exemplifies the old saying that one's man trash is another man's treasure.
Anyway, Russell said he's also going to ask the board on Tuesday to "stop the presses" on spending $20,000 to notify the roughly 75,000 customers via postcard of the upcoming public hearing on the proposed solid waste assessment hike.
In other words, the county can save $20,000 by not having to inform you that they're going to jack up your rates.
Added to that, Utilities Director Joe Staph has found another source of funding to aid with the county's landfill expansion project. A grant of up to 30 percent and a low-interest loan from the United States Department of Agriculture likely could be secured to fund landfill construction costs.
Kind of like farming trash, we guess.
Anyway, that's good news as well.
It just goes to show that with a little digging and some ingenuity, county government can act in the best interests of Hernando Countians without always going to the taxpayers' bank accounts first.
Russell and Staph deserve praise for their efforts. Hernando Countians can't afford any more tax or rate hikes. County officials will simply have to reduce the size of government to provide what taxpayers can afford.