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Chiefland business owners weigh in on city financial situation

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BY PAT FAHERTY

Special to the Citizen

As the City of Chiefland considers ways to avoid a financial crises, raising property taxes and water rates are on the table.

And both could have a greater effect on local businesses, which already pay higher water rates and lack the shelter of homestead, seniors and other property tax exemptions. 

"You have to adjust other expenses," said long-time Chiefland businessman Eddie Hatch. "Can the city raise prices on anything else — save paper, reduce hours?

"We all have some things we could eliminate."

Hatch, owner of Silk Sunshine Florals, said he doesn't have any complaints about Chiefland's costs or rates and can't find any fault with the city, but cited the lack of an economic base. "We're all mom and pop businesses," he said. "Kind of on the poor side."

He said Chiefland needs to have sustainable rents, so businesses can make a profit. He added businesses are now paying more for their supplies, but cannot always raise prices. 

"We have to become more innovative to find ways to save more," Hatch said. "The city might have to work smarter.

"I've had to do things differently."

But despite being a business owner, as a tenant and nonresident, Hatch said, he really has no input, but is optimistic the city can work it out.

"Businesses are hurting just like the city," said Kathy Hornsby, of Mangrove Creek Outfitters. "I don't know what the the answer is.

"The problem is we're not getting enough business," she said. "From what we hear, everyone is slow."

Whitney "Stoney" Smith, local businessman and Fanning Springs City Council member, acknowledged Chiefland has some issues. But he said has faith in City Manager Kevin Gay as the right person to get the city back on firm financial footing.

"The business community wants to work with him," he said.

"I don't like any kind of increases. From a business point of view, things are tight right now," he said. "But a lot can happen before the budget is done."

Smith said he is encouraged the city is looking at some budget cuts. "They've got to be able to sustain what they've got and have a little for a rainy day," he said. 

He pointed out the city has been low for a while in water, sewer and ad valorem. And its water rates are lower — for better water — than some other nearby cities.