Monday, June 18, 2018
Editorials

Council wise to douse fire fee

The financial woes for the city of New Port Richey continue, but the City Council correctly extinguished any talk of a regressive fee for fire safety as a way to balance its budget.

Over the past year, the council has asked property owners to absorb a 14 percent increase in the tax rate and higher fees for streetlights and stormwater management. Expecting its citizenry to swallow a new charge for the fire department as well would have been imprudent.

A one-size-fits-all fire fee, assigned per parcel rather than according to the value of property and its improvements, is simply a cost shift. It would push more of the existing public safety expenses onto the city's poorest homeowners and, potentially, non-profits depending on how the ordinance was written. A previous council recognized the unfairness of such a system and voted down a similar plan 10 years ago. The idea resurfaced last week during a council workshop on public safety.

Council members immediately balked. Good thinking. Consider the complicated system put in place in the city of Brooksville. It charges a per-parcel "readiness to serve'' fee and a second assessment based on the value of structure on the property. Typically, elected officials rationalize the ploy as a way to ensure that everybody pays for a share of fire services.

Actually, it would have been unfair to average homeowners, but a boon to commercial interests and to the owners of expensive lots, like those along the Pithlachascotee River, when compared to traditional ad valorem taxes that produce larger tax bills for properties of higher values.

A per-lot fee also fails to recognize that less than 60 percent of the homes in the city are owner occupied. It means the owners of a substantial amount of the residential property in the city already are paying a so-called fair share of public safety costs because they cannot claim homestead exemptions.

In the coming months, the council must confront a 4.2 percent decline in its tax rolls, rising personnel costs attributed to insurance and retirement contributions and a nearly $1 million subsidy to the redevelopment budget. A presumed windfall from the utilities budget will help, but difficult choices remain.

Fortunately, council members recognized the financial gimmickry tied to a fire fee shouldn't be one of those choices.

Comments

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18
Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Forty years ago today, Nelson Poynter died. He was the last individual to own this newspaper, and to keep the Times connected to this community, he did something remarkable. He gave it away.In his last years, Mr. Poynter recognized that sooner or lat...
Published: 06/15/18

There was no FBI anti-Trump conspiracy

The Justice Department released Thursday the highly anticipated report on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe and other sensitive issues in the 2016 election. It is not the report President Donald Trump wanted. But there is enough i...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Voter purge may be legal, but it’s also suppression

The Supreme Court’s ruling last Monday to allow Ohio’s purging of its voter rolls is difficult to dispute legally. While federal law prohibits removing citizens from voter rolls simply because they haven’t voted, Ohio’s purge is slightly different. T...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Editorial: Free rides will serve as a test of whether the streetcar is serious transportation

Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to ride for free?This fall, the TECO Streetcar Line eliminates its $2.50-a-ride-fare, providing the best opportunity yet to see whether the system’s vintage streetcar replicas can serve as a legitimate transportation a...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

AT&T and the case for digital innovation

A good way to guarantee you’ll be wrong about something is to predict the future of technology. As in, "One day, we’ll all …" Experts can hazard guesses about artificial intelligence, driverless cars or the death of cable television, but technologica...
Published: 06/14/18
Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

The Florida Department of Children and Families has correctly set a quick deadline for Hillsborough County’s main child welfare provider to correct its foster care program. For too long the same story has played out, where troubled teens who need fos...
Published: 06/14/18
Editorial: Educate voters on Amendment 4 and restoring felons’ rights

Editorial: Educate voters on Amendment 4 and restoring felons’ rights

This fall voters will have 13 constitutional amendments to wade through on the ballot, but Amendment 4 should get special focus. It represents a rare opportunity to rectify a grievous provision in the Florida Constitution, which permanently revokes t...
Published: 06/13/18
Updated: 06/14/18
Editorial: How Florida and the Trump administration are tampering with your health care

Editorial: How Florida and the Trump administration are tampering with your health care

The Trump administration just can’t stop sabotaging Americans’ access to health care. Instead of giving up after it failed to persuade Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act, it continues to quietly undermine the law in ways that would reduce acc...
Published: 06/12/18
Updated: 06/15/18