News Section: Opinion
Commission Tries to Put us on the Hook for New Stormwater, EMS and Franchise Tax in Addition to Indigent Care Sales Tax
Decision to be made this Tuesday
County administrator Ed Hunzeker wants new stormwater, EMS and Franchise taxes. In one breath, he states that the new taxes are revenue neutral, but then says we must do this because the state is reducing our tax revenues. You want to keep your eye on this shell game, because in the end, most of us pay more.
In addition to the new indigent healthcare sales tax Hunzeker proposes, these are three new taxes. Hunzeker claims we need to diversify revenue streams, but at what cost? And if it is revenue neutral, why do it? Unless of course ... it isn't.
Currently, most revenues for stormwater come from our landfill operations – almost $4 million annually. This is a fee paid by everyone, even those from outside our county. We also already pay a property tax to SWFWMD for stormwater management. Now Hunzeker wants to charge residences a new fee of $2 a month, as well as an unknown amount from non-residential properties, since a consultant would have to be hired to determine their fees (adding yet another cost).
Since the cities already have stormwater fees, we would not be able to collect from them, so we would collect only from about 2/3 of the county. How can this be revenue neutral, especially when we will have to pay for consultants, defend against lawsuits and implement a new billing system?
Adding a franchise tax to everyone’s electric bill and other utilities is regressive. This is another tax that the county would have a hard time collecting from the cities, since most already have a franchise fee on utilities. The county currently collects a countywide tax, yet Hunzeker proposes to collect the same amount of revenue from the 2/3 of the county (called the unincorporated area). The cost would have to be higher, just in order to bring in the same revenue. The shell game is an illusion where property taxes appear lower, but they would have to collect more to make up lost revenue from the cities, so how would you know unless you added every tax on an already confusing utility bill.
An EMS tax is also being proposed that could possibly be implemented in the cities as a countywide fee. But why create another billing system to only get the same revenue?
Another goal of Hunzeker's is to put the residential garbage fee on your tax bill instead of your water bill. He claims this will reduce the billing issues with garbage, but he wants to add franchise fees to all utility bills. Sounds like double talk, and it is.
When a government bills a person or their property for a service such as garbage, a direct benefit should be received just like a water or sewer bill. A garbage service benefits the party that lives in the unit and this is not always the property owner. Why should our county government charge for a utility on our property tax bill?
Other private utilities cannot do this. The garbage bill is really an assigned contract from either Waste Pro or Waste Management. The county provides a service that collects a private company's bill. If we are going to make a change, maybe we should let garbage companies collect their own bills.
There are so many changes in this shell game that unless you're good at guessing what is under each one after the magical hands stop moving, you'll likely wind up with a dizzy head and a lighter wallet.
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