Thursday, October 02, 2008

More on Davie and creativity in taxation

October 2, 2008,

I got the news that Davie’s Town Council has postponed a proposed ordinance on billing drivers involved in accidents, to cover the cost of police and fire-rescue.

The proposed fee is of about $ 940 per incident, including the cost of an independent contractor acting as the collection agency.

A decision on the subject is expected in two weeks.

The general outrage might have caused the delay.

I take it as a sign of our cities’ rebellion against their citizens’ decision to limit their unbridled spending. The modest reductions in property taxes gained so far by legislature rulings and constitutional amendments are gradually being upset by new charges and fees for services that are included in the normal function of our government and have always been covered by the taxes collected.

This kind of sneaky double-taxation has been going on for a while. But this new one is just too much.

Congratulation to Michael Mayo, whose article I just read in today’s Sun Sentinel.


For cash-strapped cities, crash fees could be just the start.

Michael Mayo - News Columnist - October 2, 2008

Accident response fees?

Brilliant. That's the proposal being kicked around in Davie.

Can't wait to see what cash-strapped local governments think of next.

In beachfront cities, how about lifeguard fees? Kayak rescue: $50. CPR: $500. Getting to swim another day: Priceless.

Or how about expedited fire response fees? A cool grand if you want a pumper truck to douse those flames within 10 minutes. Water, of course, would be extra.

Or how about public-meeting speaking fees? Something like $20 a minute. Hey, free speech is still free, but those microphones and cameras for your town's webcasts cost money.

Pardon my dripping sarcasm, but I'm ticked about this Davie plan, which got a thumbs-up on first reading last month and will be back on the Council agenda Oct. 15 after being tabled on Wednesday.

It's basically a city money grab on insurance companies by a third-party vendor, the Cost Recovery Corporation of Dayton, Ohio. According to CRC president Regina Moore, the company would get roughly 10 percent of the amount billed. The city would get the rest.

The proposed contract calls for at-fault drivers in accidents to pay for everything from the number of cops to the type of fire-rescue equipment called out to the scene.

It would even bill for the amount of time a police officer had to spend in court testifying as a witness ($80 an hour, according to the company's fee schedule).

According to the proposed ordinance, when "a no-fault declaration is made, the fee imposed may be proportionately charged to all drivers involved."

Ouch.

The fees would be billed to nonresidents and residents alike. Call me naive and hopelessly old-fashioned, but I always thought some municipal services were part of the civic compact, paid by tax dollars. Things like emergency rescue and police response to wrecks.

Welcome to government as user-fee capitalism, where a price will be put on everything.

"Where does it end?" Davie Mayor Tom Truex said Wednesday. At first, Truex supported a limited recovery fee plan for major accidents on major highways that run through Davie, like Interstate 595. But he opposes the broader plan.

"It's not a crash recovery fee," he said. "It's an accident tax."

Moore said the concept has been successful in many cities, encouraging safer driving and leading to a reduction in accidents.

Or maybe it just leads to an increase in unreported minor accidents.

She insisted that wasn't the case. She also insisted it wouldn't lead to hit-and-runs. She must not know South Florida very well.

A 2006 policy brief by the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies called the fee "a form of double taxation" and criticized CRC for "employing aggressive and threatening tactics" to collect fees.

"Simply untrue," Moore said.

Moore said those responsible for accidents should pay for costly services they require. So why not charge swimmers who get caught in riptides for lifeguards?

"You're taking it to a complete extreme," she said.

No, that's taking this to its logical conclusion.

Don't like the direction things are headed? Write your local elected officials.

But if you want them to read your thoughts, that might be a $10 bifocal maintenance fee, please.



Henry B. Nathan is a Florida Real Estate Professional. Please visit my website to search for

Florida Condos, Hallandale Condos, Aventura Condos, Hollywood Condos, Sunny Isles Condos

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