Your Opinion: Differing viewpoints on Fire Department sales tax

From Susan Holloway, Jefferson City:

Dear Editor:

There have been a lot of letters in recent weeks, both pro and con, concerning the proposed Proposition 2. To those opposing this small tax increase I have a couple of questions — have you ever needed the skills of our very dedicated fire department? Have you, a loved one, friend, or neighbor ever dialed 911 with a medical emergency?

I have, and had it not been for the JCFD my husband would have died. In May of 2007 my husband suffered a lethal arrhythmia at our home. Statistically, less than 1 percent of the people who suffer these at home survive. But because of the rapid response by the fire department (four minutes and 28 seconds from the time of the 911 call), their training, and life-saving medical equipment, he did.

In medical emergencies minutes, even seconds count, and had we had to wait for an ambulance and paramedic crew to arrive (they were six to seven minutes behind the fire department) our outcome might have been much, much different.

Proposition 2 would ensure that this quality of service remains available to all residents of Jefferson City, as well as those from outside the city limits that work and/or shop in Jefferson City. The safety and welfare of our citizens, and those visiting, is the most important service our city government provides us.

By passing this sales tax our fire department can upgrade equipment, provide additional training (more trained paramedics would qualify the fire department to be able to start IV’s, etc., rather than wait for the ambulance crew, reducing those very precious minutes of delay during a medical emergency), and increase staffing — all of which will improve their ability to serve our community.

A stronger Jefferson City makes for a stronger Cole County.

For the safety of my family — and yours — I’m voting yes on Proposition 2 and encourage you to do so, too.

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From Richard Groner, Jefferson City:

Dear Editor:

Politicians of past years often said, “Say anything about me, but make sure you spell my name correctly.” And it was spelled correctly.

My response to the query is: What I did or didn’t do years ago has no relevance to the issue at hand. Those tactics to take the issue to some other place are what it is really about.

Let’s discuss the fact. This is a whopping tax increase, which comparison numbers are based on federal money costs as of today. When the federal government changes those numbers (based presently at about 1 percent ) up to two or three times, these costs will increase in proportion. So what the city is talking about will increase by two or three times.

Write these numbers on your wall or somewhere you can keep them over time, regardless whether this thing passes or not, and find out what the true facts will be. Vote no so you don’t get snookered. A no vote can easily be corrected, whereas you are hung for 15 years with a bad yes vote.

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From Dwight W. Warren, Holts Summit:

Dear Editor:

As a Holts Summit resident, I do not have a vote in Jefferson City’s election on the sales tax to improve the Fire Department. As a frequent shopper in Jefferson City, I do have a stake in the issue and I support the upcoming tax proposal.

Local taxation is a complex issue. Who pays, as opposed to who benefits, is not always clear cut. For one example, people within Jefferson City pay the same level of county property taxes as do rural Cole County residents. The rural resident receives more benefit than the town resident from having his roads maintained, but ultimately, good infrastructure benefits everyone, not just those who live along the maintained roads.

When I shop in Jefferson City, I benefit from good streets. I benefit from police protection in the event I should become a crime victim and from police traffic enforcement which makes the streets safer. Should I have a heart attack, the Fire Department first responders might save my life.

Do I benefit as much from Jefferson City sales taxes as the Jefferson City resident? Of course not, but I pay no property taxes to Jefferson City.

There is some logic to the argument that the property tax is the appropriate vehicle for providing fire protection as the primary reason for a fire department is to protect the structures on which property tax is paid.

However, that argument overlooks at least one salient point: The Capitol, other state-owned buildings and the buildings at Lincoln University belong to all Missourians. The public school structures belong to every resident of the Jefferson City School District including me. All those buildings are protected by the Jefferson City Fire Department. Since I don’t pay Jefferson City property taxes, the only way I can contribute to fire protection for those structures is through a sales tax.

I can’t vote for the sales tax, but I fully support it. If my friends in Jefferson City pass this tax, I will gladly pay it.

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From Clayton Hill, Jefferson City:

Dear Editor:

Last week I had a visit from one of our most respected city employees — a firefighter supporting the Proposition 2, and I told him so.

Although I almost sent him on his way as I would have a solicitor or religious peddler, I decided to tell him why I am against the tax increase.

I am in favor of an adequately funded city government, and the fire department is one of the most critical needs. However, the fire department needs to be funded by the city as are almost all departments through the annual budget process with yearly oversight by elected officials. Non-city residents should not have to directly contribute to this requirement, and especially in these times, the lower income city residents should not have a disproportionate share of the funding that a sales tax forces.

Look at the never-ending, one-eighth-cent Missouri Conservation Department sales tax. How many Missouri River access points are needed here in central Missouri? There are at least six between Marion and the Osage River. None are crowded. How much taxable land has been removed from the private property tax rolls and removed from production? This is but one example of how sales taxes are not the way to go.

Yes, provide for adequate fire service; no, do not fund this requirement with a sales tax.

Vote no Aug. 7.

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From Glen Costales, Jefferson City:

Dear Editor:

The Fire Department is funded through a variety of sources including a portion of property and personal property taxes. The City Council has yet to explain what would happen to those funds derived from other taxes, such as the capital improvement tax, should Proposition 2 pass. I believe the mayor and the City Council would like those funds to be available for projects that were soundly defeated in February.

I solicit all voters to vote no to tax increase requests (includes annexation) until the mayor and City Council provide a detailed five- and 10-year financial plan along with a five and 10-year strategic plan.

Ideally, a public news release showing at least each department’s funding sources, expenditures, major accomplishments over the last two years, major plans or projects for the next five years. These plans and recaps should be printed in the local paper under the signature of the mayor, City Council members and the city administrator.

Mr Mayor, you said you wanted to run the city like a business. As a stockholder of that “business” I ask you to provide the requested information.

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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