Your Opinion: Views on fire department tax

From Scott Spencer, Jefferson City:

Dear Editor:

When a person is having a stroke or a heart attack three key links must be in place to increase the chance for survival; 911 call; First Responders, which is the JCFD whose responsibility is to intervene with life saving techniques and skills; and Cole County ambulance. Their responsibility is to transport and keep the patient alive until they get to the emergency room.

That is the short version of emergency medical services. It is complex and often misunderstood. Some believe that you could eliminate one of these key links, primarily the JCFD — first responders. We feel that would be not only be a strategic mistake but a tragic one as well, causing countless loss of life and endless pain and suffering for the loved ones left behind.

Eliminating a program that has improved the quality of life for our community is not the solution; the solution is improving it and making it more efficient and effective for the community. The answer is ALS — having paramedics on all front line fire trucks which is a major step forward in increasing the patients’ chances of survival of heart attacks, strokes and major trauma.

The question has been asked, “Why do you respond with a fire truck on an EMS call?” The answer: you never know what type or how severe the emergency until you arrive. “Why don’t you respond with one or two people in a pickup truck or a suburban?”

As the ISO report stated, we are short staffed. To be the most efficient and effective, we respond with all three firefighters. For example: a fire truck with three personnel responds to a heart attack. We arrive, do C.P.R. and shock the patient with our A.E.D. Once the ambulance arrives four to five minutes later with two personnel, they start advanced care, administer drugs and intubate. The ambulance crew relies on the JCFD to provide a driver and another EMT or paramedic to work in the back of the ambulance. The third firefighter then drives the fire truck to the hospital to pick up the other fire personnel. By responding from the onset with the crew on board the fire truck and with all our equipment, we can return to service faster and tackle the next emergency immediately.

I support Prop 2 for making Jefferson City a safer community.

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From Dennis Morrissey, Jefferson City:

Dear Editor:

Don’t be fooled! The Fire Department (FD) already has adequate funding from property tax, city sales tax and capital improvements sales tax. They don’t need more funding from a special dedicated quarter percent sales tax.

Make no mistake; giving up $803,000 in property tax to get $2.7 million in sales tax is a tax increase.

We taxpayers said no to the Transformation tax. Now firemen are being used as a shield, by the mayor and council, to get funding for their pet projects. Here is how it works. If this tax passes, existing FD funding (about $1.5 to $2 million/year) will be freed up so the city can spend it on whatever it wants. Some FD projects may be worthy but should be funded with existing resources.

Funds should be available for the FD without a tax increase. City revenue has increased about 20 percent over the last six years and the FD has reaped a 40 percent increase in their budget; going from $4.76 million to $6.63 million. I wish my income had gone up that much. About 95 percent of this money goes for salaries (average $45,000/year), retirement, health care and other benefits.

In addition, the FD gets about $400,000 per year in capital improvements sales tax funds to pay for fire apparatus, equipment lease, and station facilities; the same things they want this tax to fund.

The FD says people from outside Jefferson City don’t pay for fire protection but this is not true. Non-residents already pay city and capital improvements sales taxes, which fund fire protection.

Businesses benefit most from this sales tax because they will pay less property tax and keep part of the sales tax just for collecting it. The FD proposes to use this tax to fund additional personnel and equipment. How will this be paid for when the tax expires? I’m sure we would be asked to renew the tax for another 10 years. Most fire stations were built in the 1970s? The FD proposes to remodel or replace these buildings? Is this really necessary? The regressive sales tax means people with less income will pay a higher proportionate share of the tax. The FD and the library tax increases now with schools and highway tax next: Do we need and can we afford all these new taxes? Please vote no on this unnecessary tax on Aug. 7.

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From Jason Turner, Jefferson City:

Dear Editor:

In response to Mr. Miller’s letter I’d like to respond to some of his questions.

His statement “The department’s needs can be addressed by other means as has been done in the past.”

Really. JCFD hasn’t replaced a fire station in 20 years. The revenues to fund fire station replacement and renovations aren’t there. Deteriorating fire stations will only continue to deteriorate and cost the citizens more in the future. Who will decide how the funds will be spent?

The City Council will continue as always to manage the funding as they will through the 15 years of the tax. Who will benefit? Obviously the citizens and visitors will benefit from better services from the FD and reducing the property tax on property and personnel property will clearly be a plus for the citizens of Jefferson City.

As to Mr. Lange’s letter, families that do rent will benefit if they own personnel property reducing the cost that they pay each year. Mr. Lange’s calculations to his major purchases are correct but misleading in facts. Yes you pay sales tax on purchases of new cars, etc. But you only pay sales tax once and you’ll continue to pay taxes on it for the life time that you own it. Again the rest of the facts.

As to Richard Groner’s ad the only question I have for him is what did you do for the city when you served on the City Council? You should know what the city’s budget is like and what revenues the city has coming in. Guess that’s why the committee has four past and current councilmen on the committee working with the firefighters and not against them.

Those that have responded with negative letters and ads have failed to do one thing. Getting the facts by visiting a local fire station and seeing firsthand the needs and improvements that are necessary. Instead they have sat in the background assuming that everything is perfect in a world that clearly they know nothing about except how they believe it is.

Vote yes on Prop 2 and lower your property tax by 17 percent.

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From Ed Zagorac, Jefferson City:

Dear Editor:

Sales taxes are regressive, laying a higher level of pain on middle and low income citizens.

Fire protection should be funded by a property tax. Businesses benefit from good fire protection by lower insurance rates, a safe place for their employees and a high comfort level for their customers. Businesses, in general, pay very little sales tax. Converting to a sales tax would give businesses a reduction in property tax without an offsetting increase in sales tax.

The sales tax would increase the amount of money available to the fire department over time. Looking at the results from the half-cent sales tax for parks makes me wonder if government can make good decisions when there is an abundance of cash. The Parks Department added rock around the lake at Hough Park (Oak Hills Golf Course), rebuilt what was a perfectly good driving range and completely remodeled the club house (it now is nicer then Jeff City Country Club). There are lots of new trucks around the department.

The fire department employees enjoy a Defined Benefit Retirement Plan ... that is, the retirement income is defined and assured by the city, forever. I don’t know anyone in the private sector that has that program. People in the private sector have a 401(k) plan for retirement (or none at all), which means they are at the mercy of the investing community. When the stock market goes down, so do 401k’s! Long term liabilities concern me. Just look at all the cities that are going bankrupt, often caused by costs to fund past benefit contracts and promises.

The campaign for a quartercent sales tax is funded primarily by the Fire Department employee union. This means the union hopes to increase the number of union employees and benefits, and, increase equipment. This should be funded by existing taxes.

When I moved to Jefferson City in 1981, the sales tax rate was 5.75 percent. This increase will put it about eight (8) percent, nine (9) percent if you shop at the east Walmart. Eventually, Jefferson City will become less competitive and folks with shop elsewhere.

A modest increase in property taxes would fund any needed increase in equipment, facilities, and personnel. Limiting funds forces good decisions. Vote no on the sales tax issue on Aug. 7.

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Issue-oriented letters to the editor 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.

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