ELECTION NOV 8 2016: BOCC Candidate Q&A

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ELECTION NOV 8 2016: BOCC Candidate Q&A

October 15, 2016 - 17:24

On the November 8th Ballot, candidates for three seats on the Hernando County Board of County Commissioners will face off. Incumbent Nick Nicholson (R) and opponent Jimmy Lodato (D) will be vying for the County Commission District 1 seat. Voters will choose between Incumbent Diane Rowden (D) and John Alloco (R) for the District 3 seat. In contention for the District 5 seat (currently held by Commissioner James Adkins who is not running for re-election) is Paul Douglas (D) and Steve Champion (R).

All voters in the county cast a vote for each district seat up for election.

We sent five questions to all the candidates and received the following responses.

District 5 Candidates

Steve Champion (R)


Steve Champion (R), running for county commissioner for district 5

1(a)Does the county budget need to be increased/decreased/kept the same?
We should all strive to reduce Government’s footprint in our lives. I believe that that if we go line by line we can also find waste in the county budget. Of course our goal should be to fund programs that benefits all citizens especially those that bring business to our county and create jobs.

1(b)Does the Sheriff's office budget need to be increased/decreased/kept the same?
The Sheriff is elected by the people and I believe he and his deputies are doing a great job. The Sheriff would know better than us if he needs an increase in his budget however the commissioners need to be able to determine if we can afford an increase without raising taxes. Considering what’s going on around the country and the anti law and order actions, we need to fund the Sheriff’s budget if possible. I believe it’s possible without raising taxes considering the growth last year in the county’s revenue.

1(c) If you answered increased to either how would you pay for the increase?
John Emerson property appraiser stated that we had a considerable increase in property values with in turn the county had an increase in revenue. The funding should be there to fund both the county and the sheriff without raising taxes.

1(d) If you said decrease what do you expect to cut? N/A

2. What do you like/ dislike about the 2040 Draft Comprehensive Plan? By Statue we must have a comprehensive plan. I think it’s great to have a plan for consistency sake while still respecting personal property rights.

3 (a) What is your position on the potential construction of a new courtroom complex and building for additional government offices ( near the airport), which has been projected to cost $30 million? I am opposed because our history is Brooksville, I believe we should keep the courthouse as our main government offices for the county. As it is we are having funding problems for our Sheriff etc.. A 30 million dollar complex is not necessary now and we can’t afford it.

3 (b) Would you support a half cent sales tax to help fund this?
I’m not in favor of any sales tax increase.

4. Do you think our economic development dollars are better spent bringing large established businesses into the county or help local businesses start up and grow? I believe we should blend both while leaning towards small local businesses.

5. What one issue is your top priority? Controlling our growth of local government and keeping taxes as low as possible.

Paul Douglas (D)

Mr. Douglas did not submit responses to the questions.

District 3 Candidates

John Alloco (R)

1(a)Does the county budget need to be increased/decreased/kept the same? The Hernando County Budget should be based on projected revenues. At this time I will accept the 2017 projections as accurate. We are currently not in a surplus and should not run in a deficit, therefore the 2017 budget should be kept the same.

1(b)Does the Sheriff's office budget need to be increased/decreased/kept the same? After meeting with Sheriff Nienhuis and Terri McClanahan at HCSO to discuss the Sheriff's 2017 budget, I believe his budget as approved by the BOCC should have been increased at the minimum, by the dollars his department RETURNED from the 2016 budget and revenues collected through his operations.

1(c)If you answered increased to either how would you pay for the increase? The estimated returns from the Sheriff's department which now are close to $900,000.00, should NOT have been budgeted elsewhere in the General Fund. This would have significantly bridged the gap between the approved 2017 Sheriff's budget and the Sheriff's requested budget. We should be applauding good stewardship from our constitutional officers.

1(d) If you said decrease what do you expect to cut? N/A

2. What do you like/ dislike about the 2040 Draft Comprehensive Plan? I have spent considerable time attempting to review the 2040 Draft Comprehensive Plan. It is not user-friendly and I dislike the fact that in it's current form on the Hernando County Government website, there is no simple way to compare the 2040 draft plan with the current comprehensive plan. I have a meeting scheduled with our county administrator and assistant administrator to discuss the proposed differences. I will express my specific concerns at that time.

3 (a)What is your position on the potential construction of a new courtroom complex and building for additional government offices( near the airport), which has been projected to cost $30 million? Until we can find a way to properly fund our Fire/EMS and Police forces without raising taxes, my position is this project is not appropriate. There is a difference between needs, wants, and desires. I would say this fits in the desires category.

3 (b) Would you support a half cent sales tax to help fund this? No.

4. Do you think our economic development dollars are better spent bringing large established businesses into the county or help local businesses start up and grow? If our focus isn't for both then we are missing the boat entirely. We need a broad tax base and a diverse business climate in Hernando County to bring economic stability in the long-term. Large established businesses tend to bring more jobs immediately, but the money wouldn't necessarily stay in Hernando County. Smaller, locally based businesses typically produce less jobs initially but have the potential to become part of the "soul" of a county by developing community leaders. We need to focus on both at the same time.

5. What one issue is your top priority? Professionalism and transparency in our local government. My proven leadership style, small business success, professional demeanor, and the ability to work with a diverse group of people and ideas without becoming disagreeable makes me the type of commissioner needed to "build bridges" in our community. Improving relations with our Sheriff, Fire/EMS services, and the City of Brooksville should be a top priority, all of which are necessary for Hernando County to be an attractive place for families and businesses to call home.

Diane Rowden (D)

Diane Rowden did not submit answers to the questions.

District 1 Candidates

Jimmy Lodato (D)


Jimmy Lodato (D), running for county commission district 1

1(a)Does the county budget need to be increased/decreased/kept the same? The county has $180 million in reserves. I would like to review the budget line-by-line in order to answer this question. Property values have increased by 4.5% and this is not reflected in the current budget.

1(b)Does the Sheriff's office budget need to be increased/decreased/kept the same? The Sheriff’s office needs to be properly funded. Every year for the last four years, the Sheriff's office has returned any unused funds to the county and made a request for the funds necessary to run his department for the following year. The County Commission balks every year and refuses to fund the Sheriff. This year is no exception. The BOCC is being irresponsible by not honoring his request.

1(c)If you answered increased to either how would you pay for the increase? Higher property values are already sufficient to pay for the Sheriff’s budget needs.

1(d) If you said decrease what do you expect to cut? N/A

2. What do you like/ dislike about the 2040 Draft Comprehensive Plan? The 2040 Draft Comprehensive Plan is unrealistic. In my estimation it is generic, at best, and is very similar to plans that have been presented to other counties around the state. There are too many variables and the goals are not clearly set. This plan reads more like a wish list and does not meet the needs of our residents. According to the 2030 Plan from the Florida Chamber of Commerce, we have a greater need for jobs, housing and water. I plan to implement a 25-year plan that will work for our Hernando County residents.

3 (a)What is your position on the potential construction of a new courtroom complex and building for additional government offices( near the airport), which has been projected to cost $30 million? Government and judicial services should be centrally located in downtown Brooksville. If we build a dedicated judicial center, we can consolidate government service offices in the office space vacated by judicial services. Airport property is far too valuable and should be used for commercial purposes so I oppose moving any government offices to the airport. It would be foolish to remove this property from the tax rolls. This is currently under study and until the information is produced, everything is speculation.

3 (b) Would you support a half cent sales tax to help fund this? No, because it is not necessary. I propose building the judicial center with a bond, court fees will then generate enough to pay the bond. The county had $20 million in reserves for a judicial center, but squandered these funds to balance the budget.

4. Do you think our economic development dollars are better spent bringing large established businesses into the county or help local businesses start up and grow? It is not necessary to choose between large corporations and local businesses and I don’t believe in corporate welfare. If we build the proper infrastructure, businesses will come here. That means highly rated schools, good parks and recreation, sound public transportation, better infrastructure. Besides, the county does not have economic development dollars since the BOCC used the $25 million in reserves to balance the budget over the last four years.

5. What one issue is your top priority? Unity is the key to the success of our county, and this is where I plan to start. The citizens of Hernando County have lost confidence in our local government. As Chairman of the half cent initiative for schools, I saw our residents pull together for a common cause. I believe we can do the same to improve Hernando County and the quality of life for our citizens.

Nick Nicholson (R)


Nick Nicholson (R), running for county commission district 1

1(a)Does the county budget need to be increased/decreased/kept the same? The county budget depends on the income. We cannot spend money we do not have. I am against raising taxes. We had a shortfall of about $10 million this year. We froze all new hires, promotions, and capital expenditures to cut over $8 million. We also did not give the Sheriff his request for an additional $1.7 million. Our budget has to match our income or taxes have to be raised and I am not going to raise taxes.

1(b)Does the Sheriff's office budget need to be increased/decreased/kept the same? Same answer as above. We had to raise taxes to give the sheriff his money and he did not ask for a tax increase. So, we did not raise taxes.

1(c) If you answered increased to either how would you pay for the increase? Already answered above

1(d) If you said decrease what do you expect to cut?

2. What do you like/ dislike about the 2040 Draft Comprehensive Plan? I want incentives to develop land where there is already roads, water, and
sewer. I am against urban sprawl.

3 (a)What is your position on the potential construction of a new courtroom complex and building for additional government offices( near the airport), which has been projected to cost $30 million? I am not in favor of building at the airport. The money in the judical fund has to be spent at the courthouse. We will have enough money to add on to the existing building for additional space. If anything is built at the airport, we would have to borrow the money.

3 (b) Would you support a half cent sales tax to help fund this? I would not support a sales tax to build a building. We have many other needs that a sales tax can be used for.

4. Do you think our economic development dollars are better spent bringing large established businesses into the county or help local businesses start up and grow? Our economic dollars are already being spent to attract new businesses and to help existing businesses expand and grow.

5. What one issue is your top priority? My top priority is to keep the BOCC in the hands of the people . There are a few power brokers that have lost the power in the last election. I represent the people of Hernando County and they do not like it. They have already hand picked someone to beat me in the primary and they lost. I won the primary and they are mad. They need 3 votes on the commission to be back in control and take the BOCC away from the people. I am doing everything I can to not let that happen.