Bill Wayne's Political Pages - The Gadfly
Gadfly 84
Submitted to the Warrensburg Gazette for April 12, 2001

The Gadfly is a series of letters offering commentary on local issues and published in the Warrensburg Gazette.

Dear Editor

City and County officials are discussing ambulance service. The reports on their meeting immediately got my tax antenna twitching – I sense the beginning of a move to tax county residents to support Warrensburg’s ambulance service.

At one time, a series of private companies ran our ambulances. These companies failed for the same reason Warrensburg is losing money on the current operation – their fees are government-controlled and their expenses aren’t (gosh, isn’t that why California has a power shortage?). A government-run operation such as Warrensburg’s has an extra edge over private companies because it can be subsidized by taxpayers to cover operating deficits. If the taxpayers gave a direct subsidy to private companies, they’d be viable, too.

The implication of the city’s position is that county residents don’t “pay a fair share” to help subsidize the ambulance service. Well, we do help pay for it, along with everything else in city government. Remember, a substantial portion of Warrensburg’s revenue comes from sales tax paid by non-resident shoppers. The police force is subsidized by the county-wide law enforcement tax (by the way, isn’t it time to renegotiate their ‘fair share’ of this tax based on new population distribution data?).

Let’s put this incipient tax proposal in perspective of other dreamed or desired taxes affecting Warrensburg and its country neighbors. There will be a bond issue for the new Trails Library, to be paid for by either property or sales taxes and probably followed by an increase in the operating levy. The County Commission will look for a sales tax to build a new jail. Park Board members have suggested a sales tax to help overcome the operating deficit at the Taj Mahal (aka Community Center). The Governor wants to increase the state sales tax to pay for roads. It’s obvious that, despite higher-than-ever tax collections based on unprecedented growth in personal income, new construction and property values, many of our governmental bodies are like teenagers unable to live within their allowances.

Anyone wanting to impose a new tax will have to make a good case for it. The levies for our two county fire districts passed because the voters saw a real need and a real benefit (potentially lower insurance rates). Tax advocates better not give the impression they’ve misled part of their constituency, or they’ll be shot down the way the old Farmer’s School patrons shot down the new elementary school building at Crest Ridge. If Warrensburg wants a tax for ambulance service, tell us exactly how it will benefit us, show how you’re going to manage it efficiently, and above all, don’t go blaming your deficits on county residents.

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