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The horrible reason I support Bill Foster’s ‘Fire Readiness Fee’

By on September 13, 2012

Tonight, the city will host the first of two public hearings on the 2013 budget.

At the center of the debate is how to come up with $10 million to cover the budget shortfall in 2013, which has a $472 million budget. The city has approved the parameters and use of a Fire Readiness Ffee that would tax all parcels in the city.

I recognize the Fire Readiness Fee is not a solution to all that ails the city’s budget, but I support the idea.

Unfortunately, my support of the Fire Readiness Fee is for the wrong reason — a reason which probably only sharpens the arguments of those who oppose the fee.

I like that the tax is regressive.

There are 6,984 parcels in the city which don’t pay any municipal taxes. Many of these are charities and churches.

But it’s not like these entities do not rely on city services. In fact, I’d wager some of these buildings’ owners rely disproportionately on city services, such as when police officers are called to settle disputes among those at a homeless shelter.

Moreover, I don’t know why my tax dollars should subsidize your church.

This is a dangerous thought, but we need less charities in this city.

We need less halfway-houses attracting the recently paroled to the city. We need less mental-health centers attracting patients from throughout the country to the city. We need less thrift stores cannibalizing the business of traditional shops.

If the Fire Readiness Fee forces some of the halfway-houses, mental-health centers and thrift stores to close, that is a good thing.

There was a recent story in the Tampa Bay Times about the impact the Fire Readiness Fee would have on some residents.

Anna Davis, a 79-year-old retired teacher, is one of them.

“I can’t afford this,” Davis said from the front porch of her home in the Historic Roser Park neighborhood. “Where am I going to get the money for that?”

Davis has lived in the 762-square-foot home since 1971. Because its assessed value is $13,679, she doesn’t pay property taxes.

Under Florida’s homestead exemption, owners don’t pay property taxes on the first $25,000 in assessed value. Of the 100,000 parcels in the city, 6,984 are like Davis and don’t pay any municipal taxes.

The fire fee would cost Davis $77 a year.

Read that again. Davis lives in a house worth $13,679. That’s not a house, that is a hovel. I’m while Ms. Davis may be an upstanding citizen, a city made up of thirteen thousand dollar homes is not one I want to live in.

It’s bad enough that we have mobile home parks, such as Americana Cove, occupying some of the best real estate in town, yet are exempted from paying property taxes.

If the Fire Readiness Fee forces some of these mobile home parks to close, that is a good thing.

Of course, it’s for the reasons why I support the Fire Readiness Fee that it will likely fail to pass the City Council today.

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