For eight years, Citrus County Commissioners have tried to get a handle on residential road resurfacing.
The task is daunting: Nearly 800 miles of county roads are in need of repaving at an estimated $123 million cost, according to county officials.
Commissioners set aside a minimum $3 million a year for road resurfacing — funding hit $6 million this year — but they acknowledge the need is greater than the amount of money to pay for it.
In recent months, they’ve bandied around the idea of asking voters to approve a penny sales tax increase to pay for it. An additional penny would bring in about $12 million to $16 million annually, but Commissioners acknowledge the uphill climb of convincing voters to approve it.
Now, though, they’ve focused on another method.
Commissioners this week asked staff to study a municipal services benefit unit — MSBU — to spread out costs of neighborhood road resurfacing to all property owners.
Unlike a property tax, which has built-in state homestead exemptions, an MSBU is a flat annual rate on property. The only exemptions are those approved by Commissioners.
Commissioner Jeff Kinnard suggested the county initiate an MSBU for 2023, then consider asking voters for a sales tax bump in 2024 if the MSBU proves unpopular.
Commissioners said they preferred either the MSBU or sales tax to pay for road resurfacing. The idea of increasing the property tax rate was not seriously discussed.
Kinnard said he didn’t think voters would support a sales tax increase for roads without being given an alternative first. A sales tax referendum with no backup plan doesn’t solve the problem, he said.
“If this doesn’t pass, we still need to repave the roads,” Kinnard said.
Commissioner Ruthie Davis Schlabach suggested the county ask voters in this year’s election for the penny sales tax increase.
“What would it harm to put it on the ballot?” she asked.
Commissioner Scott Carnahan said it would be a waste of time.
“If you put it on this year’s ballot, you’re doomed to failure,” he said.
Kinnard said a referendum defeat would reverberate beyond this year.
“To throw it on the ballot in ’22, the risk of it failing is enormous,” he said. “If it does fail, you spoil the chances of seeing a local option sales tax for many years.”
Like many counties, Citrus has shifted some of the tax burden from property taxes to MSBUs to avoid exemptions. Citrus County property owners pay an MSBU for fire protection and stormwater, and some communities have their own MSBUs for beautification and upkeep.
Commissioners instructed County Administrator Randy Oliver to bring back a breakdown of potential costs to property owners under an MSBU for roads.
Board Chairman Ron Kitchen Jr. noted both he and Carnahan are not seeking re-election, and it’s unknown what direction two new Commissioners will take.
“We have a good battle plan,” he said. “It all may change in November.”
April 28, 2022 at 4:40 am
The penny tax is actually more feasible/it’s much more fair,why should I as a property owner be taxed unfairly/wile the general public using the same roads as me/non property owners,don’t pay a dime,not cool,but who knows what will transpire these commissioners,change like the weather good or very corrupt and bad!!!!!!
April 29, 2022 at 10:32 pm
Our road is in desperate need of paving. We have craters the whole length of our street. You need to own a truck to drive our street and I dont have a truck. We are in Inglis on the citrus county side.
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