Take charge board takes charge
You’re probably as tired of reading about our county commission as I am writing about it.
Except I’m not tired of it. Not by a longshot.
Not if this county commission continues to thrive, which I believe it will.
Commissioners had their annual goals retreat Wednesday at the Lecanto Government Building (which is the last place I’d schedule a retreat, but what do I know).
These workshops run fairly routinely. Each commissioner has his/her priorities, they are all discussed, and then they collectively choose the five or so subjects that will get their attention that year.
But I don’t recall attending one of these meetings where all five commissioners agreed on the same ideals, even while differing on the details, as they did Wednesday.
Before I get to the highlights, I’ve seen enough of these goal sessions to tell when a commissioner is mailing it in, arguing just to make a point, or setting the bar low.
What I saw Wednesday were five commissioners who have their marching orders from the public and are eager for action. No showboating or bad actors that I could tell.
— Commissioners discussed a sales tax referendum in 2026, though not yet identifying exactly the purpose for it. They agreed that a penny sales tax referendum solely to repave residential streets likely won’t pass, but a sales tax offered by the community for that and/or other purposes might.
Commissioner Jeff Kinnard is the one who suggested 2026 and not 2024 for the referendum. His thinking is that two years isn’t enough time to build momentum for the tax and, listening to him, I found myself in agreement.
We’re going to leave that here for now but I’ll have plenty more.
— Concurrency/impact fees. The county will start the year-long process to add traffic concurrency, a government term that means developers have to provide the necessary road improvements to handle the traffic their project brings.
Transportation impact fees are set at 50% of a consultant’s recommendation. Bringing them to 100% would add about $1,400 to the cost of a house.
County builders have historically opposed large increases in impact fees under the belief that it will drive potential customers elsewhere. I’m not so sure that argument holds water any longer.
These things won’t get done this year, but the county will start the process. Absent concurrency and full impact fees today, it’s the best we can hope for from the county to prepare for growth.
— Interesting back-and-forth about residential road resurfacing and how to pay for it. Commissioners Rebecca Bays and Holly Davis suggested shifting costs from the property taxpayer to an MSBU — flat annual fee that every property owner pays whether you’re exempt from property taxes or not.
They discussed hiring a consultant to find out what that annual fee or separately, a special tax, would look like.
Commissioner Diana Finegan put the brakes on that with this insight: If the consultant comes back and says we can charge a high MSBU, are we actually going to do that?
She noted how angry the public was over the stormwater MSBU which, for many people, flipped a tax of a few dollars a year to an annual $59 fee.
Before spending money on a consultant, Finegan suggested the staff bring estimates to the board so that commissioners can say whether they’ll back that route or not.
And, if not, is there another plan for road resurfacing or will the county fall further behind? These commissioners have promised an answer to that question.
— Beautify Citrus County was an intriguing idea Finegan brought about. She talked about it some on the campaign trail, but I didn’t see her point until Wednesday.
The idea is to have monument signage and landscaping at certain points to welcome motorists to Citrus County. Then to focus on cleaning this place up. She suggested a friendly competition among the five county commission districts to beautify their communities. Commissioners can work with their local residents and organizations.
That is great thinking and one that doesn’t sound like a lot of money. What it sounds more like is community pride, partnering with the local government to expose our charm.
There were many other wonderful ideas and I took a whole reporter’s notebook full of notes. I’ll be breaking these down so we can all start having meaningful conversations about Citrus County's today and tomorrow.
That’s how this works. I’m happy to have five commissioners zoned in on their duty. Happier still when the public pipes in as well.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 35 years.