Make do with what you have

Dear Editor:

It seems this Board of County Commissioners and other folks running county departments have short memories. Almost three years ago, a proposal to levy a tax on the citizens brought a packed house in opposition. Here we are again, but in a worse situation, with the primary reason being this bunch cannot and will not live within their means and stop trying to keep up with the Jones’. 

The last time they tried this, an acronym was used to try and justify this tax. . . ISO. The selling point was, it would lower your homeowner’s insurance, and we would all be better for it. You don’t hear that being thrown around anymore, especially since a lot of people’s insurance went up a bunch this year. Mine was over a $1,200 a year increase. 

Our property taxes were raised this year. What did they do with that money? They put on an additional gas tax. What did they do with that money?
They can’t tell you because they don’t know either. Now they want more. 

The latest sales pitch for increased taxes and fees, to not pay for what they currently have, but to increase by millions is an NFPA standard, specifically, NFPA 1710 Standard for Deployment of Fire Suppression Operations. It recommends a certain number of firefighters to respond to four benchmark type of buildings. In a recent survey of the 50 most populous cities in the US, 34% cannot meet this standard. This is certainly unobtainable in a rural setting like ours. In fact, Alachua, Clay, St Johns, and Nassau cannot meet this standard. Even the city of Jacksonville, with an over $350-million fire department budget, cannot meet it in some instances. They all are growing and have tax base. So why bring this up? 

Can the county be sued for not following this recommendation? Sure. You can sue anyone for anything. Two recent case laws from Delaware and Nebraska. In both cases, the judge ruled in favor of the cities that suits were brought against. So, the likelihood of a plaintiff award is very slim. 

What is NFPA? It’s an organization that dates back to 1913 that, through over 9,000 volunteers and over 250 technical committees, develops fire prevention and firefighter safety codes and standards. NFPA has very few codes. Most of their documents are standards, and there are over 300 of them. 

A “code” is something that is deemed a law or ordinance. The Florida Administrative Code for instance, the Florida Fire Prevention Code, or the Florida Building Code, are other examples. A standard is just that. Unless adopted under Florida Statute, or local ordinance, NFPA standards have no enforcement teeth. 

One commissioner recently asked out loud “where the hell is the money going?” My question is, why don’t you know? A good guess is over $1.1 million for 11 full-time and one part-time administrative and supervisory personnel in the Fire-Rescue Dept. Another guess is new pick-up trucks, new tires for those trucks; and lift kits, bumpers, winches, and bed toppers that cost thousands. It all adds up and the math doesn’t work. They can trim the fat; they just don’t want to. our honorable clerk of the court said it best recently. Nobody is willing to sacrifice. 

Their answer is to pick the pockets of the public and tell us that this is what’s best for us. This franchise fee isn’t the end, you can bet. A fire and EMS assessment is on the horizon. Hopefully not before the 2022 elections where change can be made. We pay taxes for core services; public safety, roads and infrastructure, sanitation. Everything else is fluff and can wait. Additional taxes on core services in just wrong. 

This bunch has proven they cannot manage the tax dollars they get now. Tell us why we should give you one penny more. Make do with what you have. We all have to. 

Paul McDavid

Voter, District 5