Facing a budget shortfall of $4.5 million, struggling Hernando County residents may have to pay higher taxes.
County Commissioners are considering raising property taxes and tangible personal property taxes on businesses in order to close their budget gap. Both options would further burden Hernando residents already fighting high unemployment and falling property values.
Hernando County’s unemployment rate of 13.8% is higher than the 10.6% state average.
The budget shortfall was caused by overspending during the past decade of growth and rapid increases in property taxes. When unregulated mortgage default swaps on Wall Street caused the financial markets to collapse in 2008, Hernando’s already weak employment market threw the county into economic disaster.
Since a record number of Hernando homes have been foreclosed on, property values are approximately half of what they were during the peak years of the real estate market and the property tax base has shriveled.
Businesses have been hard hit by the collapse of the housing market and lack of customers with disposable income. Empty storefronts riddle the roadsides in Brooksville and Spring Hill, and tax hikes may only make the problem worse.