So what are the repercussions of the Board of County Commissioner’s decision to “kill” the Fire Fee Assessment? After a large crowd assembled before the Commission to complain profusely that the fee would be “unfair” and “unequitable,” Commissioners Sarah Heard, Ed Ciampi and Ed Fielding voted to kill the proposal all together. Commissioner Harold Jenkins had made a counter motion (which Commissioner Doug Smith seconded) that the Board reconsider the fee after the first of the year and tweek it sufficiently to make it palatable to the public. But the protestors prevailed. It was made mention by county staff and Commissioners that perhaps the fee hadn’t been properly offered to the public or that the public hadn’t been properly educated on the matter. But, what I saw were 2 factions….business people who felt it was much too much of a burden on their enterprises and that it would affect their ability to hire or expand. One entrepreneur even mentioned the possibility of having to close up shop! The other faction was lower income homeowners who haven’t had to pay for these services in the past (because of the reduction of the Homestead Exemption) so they felt unjustly put upon to do so now.
The whole episode left me to wonder if in a county of 159,000, just 150 people should have so much influence. “Government by tee-shirt” is what a friend of mine calls it. Are they representative of the entire county?
While most in the room proclaimed that the Commission should “raise the ad valorem instead”, most of those saying that do not pay property taxes at all or only a minimum. The one faction that I did not see represented at the meeting was middle class homeowners.
There is little doubt that the fire department will get what it needs. And that leaves little doubt that the BOCC will simply raise ad valorem taxes in order to give them what they need. This will affect only those citizens with relatively more valuable homes. “Well, they can afford it!” I can hear the cry as I write this. But, where is the breaking point?
Something to note is that the county now has wasted whatever money was spent on the consultant retained to advise the County on the matter of the Fire Fee Assessment. And, I have observed that it pays to be a consultant, so I’m sure it was not cheap. Also, the county wasted $88,000 just noticing every resident and business in the county. I’m hoping that the Commissioners and Staff might think about doing a survey before embarking on a costly pursuit again. Yes, a survey would cost money, but it could be done by email instead of expensive “snail” mail. And, perhaps reach a more representative group of citizens.
Darlene VanRiper, Executive Director