Your Opinion: Viewpoints on fire department tax

From Nancy Thompson, Jefferson City:

Dear Editor:

Once again, with Prop. 2, our city fathers (and mothers) are going for another cash-grab using double-speak and outright deception.

Their promotional literature claims this is a vote for a “safer community” which it is not. It is a scheme intended to create a permanent source of revenue to beef up the firemen’s retirement program, giving the City Council a sizable slush fund to play with and redirect if they choose.

The literature further claims “increased savings on your fire insurance rates ...” I checked with my insurance carrier, a major national firm, and they said their underwriters quit using the ISO rating system four to five years ago. Therefore this claim isn’t universally applicable as the council would have you believe.

The city’s established pattern of using a less than honest approach in their continuing requests for new tax money, makes me (and I suspect many others) weary, and automatically suspicious of any funding bill they put on the ballot, both now and in the future. They are treating the public like they are stupid ... again.

I’m voting no, now and forever.

_

From Josh Young, Jefferson City:

Dear Editor:

My family has strong ties to this community. We live outside the city limits, but we work and shop within Jefferson City.

After graduating from college and working in the private sector for several years, I joined the Fire Department in 2010 with zero experience. I found that the fire department has been required to do more, with less funding, for far too long.

Times have changed, and our city has grown. Now, the majority of our calls are medical emergencies. While we also put out fires, we conduct water rescues, technical rope rescues, vehicle extrications, and respond to hazardous material incidents.

Additionally we educate the public on fire safety through school visits, tours, and through our annual fire inspections. Ongoing, in-depth training is the only way to maintain (and advance) these skills at the highest level.

I chose my profession, and understand the innate dangers associated with it. We are tasked with saving lives and preserving property, and I will “risk a lot to save a lot”. We all will risk our lives to save another.

However, it should not come as a surprise or upset anyone that we want the safest and most technologically advanced equipment.

An easy example is something that is tremendously important — our breathing apparatus. Compared to what we use now, the newer air bottles hold the same amount of air and are half the weight and size. Other available bottles hold 15 more minutes of air, and are still lighter and smaller than what we currently use. Just consider the fact that you could become trapped in a house fire. Those extra 15 minutes of air truly can be a matter of life and death, for you and the firefighters that come in to rescue you. Of course firefighters would want better equipment, and city residents should demand the same.

I love our community, what I do, and cannot imagine ever working anywhere else.

I ask that you vote “Yes” on Prop. 2. We can be better.

_

From Robert Hileman, Jefferson City:

Dear Editor:

The primary ballot on Aug. 7 contains a library tax increase and a sales tax to fund the firefighters improvement plan. We, the voters of Jefferson City, have a chance to make our vote count.

These proposed taxes came at a time when we are unaware of the hidden tax increases in the Obama health care issue and a proposed 14 percent increase by AmerenUE. Each of these will further increase our living expenses.

Is a sales tax a fair way to support the fire department. With a sales tax everyone who shops in the city will be supporting the fire department no matter where they live. Should this be?

Revenue will no doubt increase if the sales tax issue is approved. Of course that is the intent of the sales tax in the first place. When this increase occurs who will decide how to spend the extra money (and for what)? Yes, it appears that with any government excess money gets spent, wisely or not.

Another personal reason for me to vote no on the sales tax is illustrated by the following example.

The voters of Cole County recently passed a halfcent sales tax to support the county ambulance service. This brings in a sizable amount of revenue. I recently used this ambulance service to transport me from my home to the Capital Region Medical Center (a distance of less than five miles.) I was very surprised when my insurance company was billed $744.60 for this trip. I wonder why?

What am I missing here? Am I being told indirectly that the half-cent sales tax is terribly insufficient to fund this ambulance service? Where is all the money going?

It appears to me the one-fourth percent sales tax for the fire department is another way for the city to obtain access to additional funds. We don’t need a conference center. Did the city officials not hear the voters in February?

Please vote no on Proposition 2 on Aug. 7.

_

From Ned Diekroeger & Jim Snider, Jefferson City:

Dear Editor:

Sometimes issues are not what they first appear to be. Proposition 2 on the Aug. 7 ballot for Jefferson City voters would raise the sales tax one-fourth percent to a total of 7.975 percent on goods purchased in Jefferson City. The proponents have touted the benefits of the additional tax but what are some of the downsides to another sales tax increase?

One downside is obvious — most purchases will cost more but what are some of the other negatives?

It will cost more to shop in Jefferson City which is not a competitive advantage for our city. Sales taxes are regressive for lower and middle income people who already spend most of their income on necessities.

This funding approach will likely foster competition among other branches of city government to seek similar long-term guaranteed income sources. Our city government departments will become dependent on this guaranteed income and won’t have to justify their spending needs and expenditures for long periods of time. Finally, the City Council will have less flexibility in allocating funds thereby reducing their ability to respond to the ever-changing needs and conditions of the city.

If the City Council persists with this method of funding, they are ultimately abdicating a large part of their governing responsibilities.

For these reasons we urge voters to vote no to Proposition 2 on Aug. 7.

Issue-oriented letters to the editor in response to this or about other local topics are welcome. All letters should be limited to 400 words. The author's name must appear with the letter, and the name, address and phone number provided for verification. Letters that cannot be verified by telephone will not be published. Send letters for publication to editor@newstribune.com

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