'Meritorious Plan of Action' merits debate
Hernando TodayThe issue: Stabins' "Meritorious Plan of Action."
Published: March 4, 2011
Published: March 4, 2011
Our opinion: Parts of plan have merit.
We like the idea of county government giving back $3 million to property owners whose taxes soared during the housing boom years when county officials raked in more money than they knew what to do with.
However, we don't like the idea of using another $3 million from the $12 million capital improvement slush fund to help fill an expected $5.2 million budget hole next year.
We want to see government officials cut spending by that much or more. County government needs to live within its means.
We are intrigued by the idea of taking another $3 million from that slush fund - initially set aside to build an unneeded judicial center - to help attract new business and industry to Hernando County. As we all know, good jobs are a precious commodity in Hernando. More, better-paying jobs would do more to improve the economy here than just about anything - and probably result in fewer court cases as well.
Those three suggestions come from Commissioner Jeff Stabins' "Meritorious Plan of Action," which we think is a silly name that reflects more ego than substance. After all, Stabins has yet to come up with how he would provide the rebates to property owners.
We have a suggestion: Give them a proportional credit on their next tax bill. It might be $10; it might be $1,000 depending on how much property taxes an individual paid.
We also like Manager of Budget Services George Zoettlein's suggestion: Reduce the mill levy proportionately. Stabins doesn't like that idea because once commissioners reduce the mill levy, any attempt to put it back to the previous level would be looked at by taxpayers as a tax hike.
He's probably right, but property owners need a break during these tough financial times.
Even though we don't agree with his entire plan, we have to give Stabins credit for trying to find ways to get the county out of its current financial mess. Some might say he's pandering to taxpayers by suggesting a rebate, but we'll always believe that taxpayers' money is better spent when it's in their pockets than the government's.
Stabins would put the remaining $3 million in the general fund for a rainy day. We don't want to see government spend any of its reserves on day-to-day operations. That's simply spending more money than is available to run government efficiently.
The gravy days of property tax revenues can no longer be seen in the rearview mirror. It's time to cut government down to the revenues it currently generates, and commissioners will have to prioritize spending based on what's best for the taxpayers.
If that philosophy would have been followed in the past, local governments wouldn't find themselves in such a financial conundrum today.