Bait and Switch: City fire fees

The first of a series of attempts by local government to switch from property taxes to a flat fees is about to occur if the Pensacola City Council approves a $377 annual fire protection fee for residences and businesses. Council members say that they will reduce property taxes accordingly. But we don’t know if the reduction in property taxes will really be a reduction or simply the decrease mandated by Amendment 1.

Flat fees for essential government services punish the elderly and the poor. There are no homestead exemptions for fees. Fees aren’t tax deductible like property taxes.

But for city officials, they don’t have to send our TRIM notices when they raise the fees in years to come. Already the City of Pensacola has hit the max on its franchise fees, communication service fees and other charges that are hidden in various bills we get.

If this fee passes, Council members will campaign next fall on the platform that they reduced property taxes – while the size of government and the money taken out of our pockets has increased. Plus, this will be just the beginning of other fees that we will see – street-cleaning fees; police protection fees; answer the phone fees.

The Pensacola City Council will hold a Feb. 28 public hearing on the fire assessment fee.

BTW: Firefighters will be out in force calling for this. Many believe that the Firefighters Union is the single most powerful political group in Pensacola. They rarely lose.