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Have you ever stopped to try to figure out how much money you spend on taxes, fees, and whatever else governments want to call the money they take from us? Have you ever wondered how your lifestyle would change if you didn’t have to pay as much of this money as you do?

I attend the Suwannee County Commission meetings and it is a microcosm of what goes on at all levels of government. They tend to forget that it is the taxpayers who are funding all of the operations of the county government. Even when they go out for grants (which they do frequently in our county); that money still comes from OUR pockets!

At the last meeting (6-15-15); near the end of the agenda there was a presentation of raising the fire and solid waste assessments. For some reason the solid waste wasn’t addressed but we were told that they want to raise the fire assessment from $75 to $100. While that doesn’t seem to be a lot, it represents a 33 percent increase in that particular tax. We were told that would free up money that the county has been funding out of the general revenue and fiscally restrained monies. When I got up and reminded them that whether we pay the money as an assessment or we pay it as part of our regular property taxes, it is still coming out of the same pockets….OURS. I asked if they would be giving us back the money from the general revenue if they raised the fire assessment. I don’t think I got an answer to that! I asked if this had to be voted on that night and was told yes because it had to be in by July 1. That raises the question of why did they wait until the second meeting in June to put it on the agenda?

The reasons given for increasing the fire assessment ranged from purchasing new equipment, putting 10,000 gallon water tanks at each of the collection sites, and that it will reduce the ISO ratings and save the taxpayers an average of $450 on their homeowners insurance. I sincerely doubt that very many county residents would see that amount of savings on their insurance!

These may be very good reasons to raise the assessment but there is a limit to how much taxpayers can continue to bear. At the meeting this increase did not pass, due to lack of a second to the motion.  

Last year, the commission voted to allow our EMS to begin doing non-emergency transports. At the beginning of this fiscal year we put $450,000 into a budget for this purpose. This was supposed to make the county enough money to help make the EMS department more self-sufficient. I have tried for several months to find out how we are doing with this endeavor. What have we spent? What have we brought in? So far I have no answers. Wouldn’t you think that the commissioners would want to know how this is going? Don’t the taxpayers have a right to know whether this is a viable endeavor? Are they going to budget more money for this in next year’s budget? Why not call your commissioner and ask some of these questions? 

I was against it from the beginning for several reasons, but the biggest one is that it had the potential for putting private sector employees out of work. 

I have lived here long enough to remember when county government functioned without the “special assessments”. I understand that as our county grows, services can and will cost more money. But…there never seems to be an end to government trying to figure a way to increase our taxes. 

Why not call your county commissioner today and ask him some of these questions. Give him your opinion about how you would like to see your local taxes spent. Attend the county commission meetings when you can. They meet on the first and third Tuesday of each month at 6 p.m.

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