Sunday Q&A with BOCC District 2 Candidate Stacey Worthington | County Board District Council 2
With early voting underway through Saturday August 20 and the primary election scheduled for Tuesday August 23, the Chronicle asked a number of questions about the issues the county is facing with Stacey Worthington, candidate for District 2 of BOCC.
Question: Have you read the departmental budget? Which areas could produce savings and which areas could use more funding?
Answer: I’ve reviewed Citrus County’s 2022-23 proposed budget, capital improvement program, and full annual financial report for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2021. I like the numbers, c This is one of the reasons I got a bachelor’s degree in accounting. One thing I would like to see is more consistency in the classifications of the budget, especially when it comes to transfers.
For example, under transportation, there is an interfund gas tax transfer for transportation revenue of $1.7 million marked Transfer 326 Gasoline Tax. Then it is noted as non-operational expense Transfer Road/Bridge under Residential/Main Road. The budget requires a lot of cross-checking to determine what funds are being moved and where we could do a better job.
Cost-benefit analysis, efficiency, return on investment and performance incentives are all used to maximize profits in the private sector. The government can employ the same in every department to produce savings.
Finally, we should continue to repay debts, which now exceed $123 million. Stormwater assessment should be reviewed. Stormwater funding has increased from just over $900,000 to over $4 million with the new assessment. We pay $256,000 to the real estate appraiser and collector to collect the fees versus $37,650 in 20/21. We’ve made a big investment in stormwater, but we can’t allow it to be an indefinite right without a sunset.
Residential road resurfacing needs to receive more funding as we have a serious backlog and the continued underfunding each year increases the problem. Before asking residents for more money, however, we need to adjust the formula. Roughness and density alone no longer work. Using different forms of asphalt and extending paving contracts to give companies more certainty in hiring employees and renting equipment are two additional quick ways to cut costs, but in the Together, the public deserves the best determined cost possible before a final funding amount is decided.
Question: How would you approach the job as “one of five” – that is, what are your strengths and how would you leverage them in a team?
Answer: To serve on a board, an effective board member must make decisions with three considerations in mind: balancing their own vision with the input of other board members, understanding the experts who make presentations, and listening to the public who play a essential role in the discussion as well.
A competent member of the board of directors finds solutions by seeking consensus without ever forgetting that he represents the interests of his constituents. I have extensive experience in making decisive decisions in many local councils.
The most effective way to build consensus is to be prepared with as much evidence to support your policy or point of view. Presenting facts but having an open mind to consider all factors earns the respect of your colleagues. You can agree without being disagreeable. Tenacity is often tolerated, even appreciated, if it is associated with authenticity. This is my approach.
Question: What is smart growth and how should the county achieve it?
Answer: Growth management and good planning will help us maintain quality of life and keep taxes low in Citrus County.
We should encourage infill development by minimizing the cost of service by taking advantage of existing roads, utilities and public safety coverage among other civil services. We need to plan better for additional infrastructure and develop a more efficient transport management plan. For example, in 2021 the county released which roads had been paved the previous month. The Chronicle did this at no cost to the taxpayer and helped provide both greater transparency and accountability, which builds trust between the public and the county.
We must carry out a cost-benefit analysis of new developments and determine the contribution of any new project to county resources against the cost to the county of services. All these proposals must be well designed to adapt and preserve the charm of our small town.
Finally, smart growth appears to reverse the taxpayer dependency ratio. Currently, our ratio is approximately 40% commercial and 60% residential from a tax collection perspective. Most healthier economies have this reversed. We can develop our commercial base without becoming metropolitan or industrial.
Question: Economic development in Citrus County has languished for decades. Do you have any ideas for attracting business and if so, what type of business is best suited? Also, are incentives on the table for business development and, if so, what incentives do you consider appropriate?
Answer: I can’t fix what’s happened over the past few decades, but the first thing we need to do right now is hire a long-term economic director. As a small business owner with my husband, I understand how critical it is to have a local workforce contributing to the community. We have a lot to offer in Citrus County: beauty, natural resources, climate and low taxes. Transportation and logistics have been challenges businesses have faced in the past, however, renovations to Suncoast Parkway and the airport are alleviating some of these operational challenges.
We need a balanced and planned approach to development. We can strengthen the local workforce through education by using available resources to provide skilled, skilled and employable workers to current and potential businesses. Withlacoochee Technical College and the new ‘Canes Construction Academy which started classes at Citrus High School this week with 140 children enrolled are a good start.
It’s not all about trades, however. Increased fiber and high-speed Internet access would help remote workers in the information economy who choose to live here for all that Citrus has to offer beyond the work environment.
In terms of incentives, we can adopt an impact fee structure to encourage development closer to the center of the county where the infrastructure exists by reducing fees in those areas.
Question: How do you approach the issue of affordable housing and what are the best methods to attract qualified developers?
Answer: Housing is mainly driven by the private sector and there is a shortage, which has driven prices up over the past 10 years. This problem is amplified by a lack of rental opportunities in our department. I support nonprofits like Habitat for Humanity because it’s a helping hand, not a handout.
However, there are things your local government can do and I have done many of them as Vice Chairman of our Planning and Development Commission. When applying for planned unit development, we may begin asking developers to set aside a percentage of the new community for affordable housing as a condition of approval. Density bonuses for affordable housing receive little or no rejection from neighbors in proposed new subdivisions. These new subdivision developers often request zoning changes that result in increased density, and it’s something to consider if it’s compatible with the surrounding community.
Question: What are the advantages and disadvantages of universal waste collection? Do you support him?
Answer: I don’t believe in universal waste collection. Much of our county does not currently have a budget for waste collection and this mandatory tax would be an intrusion on their individual freedoms. As a conservative Republican, I wouldn’t support that.
However, there may come a time when the numbers make sense from a tax perspective. The advantage of waste collection by a single carrier is that there are far fewer heavy trucks on our roads. Right now, you might have a single route with Waste Management, Flash Trash, and Waste Pro running it at different times of the week. A single company performing a single collection day would solve this problem and ultimately save every resident money that would be spent on fixing these roads in a shorter time. Our roads would also be cleaner with less unsecured trash flying from people’s trailers.
It’s not the economic time and there hasn’t been a convincing argument that universal waste collection is cost saving, so I’m against it.
Question: Do you think the 2020 presidential election was fraudulent? Yes or no.
Answer: No. Problematic voting practices that led to small-scale irregularities such as unattended ballot boxes justified as COVID measures must be eliminated. However, in Florida and Citrus County in particular, our vote is safe and secure. It’s time we moved on and focused our attention on helping the county overcome some of the critical challenges we face.