|Fees could be assessed for police and rescue|
|The Press - News|
|Written by Mike Anderson|
|Wednesday, 28 September 2011 17:31|
County property owners pay annual assessments totaling $85.50 for fire protection and solid waste disposal. Next year, those assessments could be higher and residents might face new fees for other county services, including emergency medical aid and law enforcement.
A county commission workshop has been scheduled for 3 pm on October 4 to address the assessments issue in an effort to produce more revenue to avoid the use of emergency funds to balance the budget next year. Commissioners transferred $2.2 million from county reserves to help fund the recently approved 2011-12 budget.
After scheduling the workshop at the end of the last board meeting on September 19, board chairman Michael Crews urged fellow commissioners to “bring a bucket full of ideas and suggestions and see what we can come up with.”
Commissioners have previously discussed the possibility of levying assessments for emergency medical services and Mr. Crews said law enforcement should be considered for a similar assessment. Both are now financed by the county’s general operating fund, which includes property taxes and state and federal revenues.
“Everyone does not pay their fair share on law enforcement,” Mr. Crews said Monday. “I believe it should have its own assessment. At the least, I think the board should give consideration to setting a (property tax) millage aside specifically for law enforcement.”However, he said he would prefer charging all households an assessment for law enforcement and for emergency medical services because then everyone would have to help pay for the services, not just those who pay property taxes.
He speculated that most of the calls for law enforcement help and emergency medical services are generated by people who “pay the least and in most cases pay absolutely nothing.”
“Assessments or consumption of services fees is the only way to correct the unfairness of the current system,” Mr. Crews said. “We all know what the problem is. It’s time to quit talking about it and put some resolutions into action in a fair and fiscally responsible manner, one that spreads the financial burden to all who consume county services.”
Of course, he added, provisions “may need to be considered for the poor, elderly and disabled.”
He said that by the end of his term as chairman in November he hopes “to have assessments in place and ready to go in effect by October 1, 2012 and simultaneously lower the ad valorem (property) taxes of the top payers of the county.”
“This notion that you pay more because you make more … is absurd and counter-productive,” Mr. Crews said. “The long-term goal is to break the trend of the few bearing the majority of the county’s expense and put in place a proportionate fair share plan.”
The 3 pm. workshop will begin two hours prior to the commission’s first regular board meeting in October.
Also during the September 19 meeting, commissioners received the following reports from County Manager C.J. Thompson:
• The county’s new ATV trails at Shoals Park have been completed and should be open to the public in early October. Although fees for using the trails eventually will be charged, Mr. Thompson said riders probably will be allowed free entry for the first several months until a fee schedule is developed.
Meanwhile, a park ranger will be on duty to regulate and control riders in the 2,400-acre park, most of which is fenced and features ATV trails on about 1,000 to 1,200 acres.
• The final meeting has been held with the architect of the new county administration building and construction bids are now being sought after several years in the planning stages.
• A meeting with Council on Aging officials and representatives from the Florida Department of Transportation was scheduled for September 20 to prepare a request for professional services to design a new transportation center on COA property behind the Winn-Dixie shopping center on South 6th St..
|Last Updated on Thursday, 29 September 2011 11:57|