Sunday, June 14, 2009

This Week's Big Controversy: To Tax and Build, Or Not to Tax and Build ??

Florence Mayor Proposes 2% Tax Hike to Pay For Fire Stations ....

This should be an interesting post. It has all the earmarks for an argument: Taxes, services, it's local, and it involves both political parties. Too bad I'm writing this on a Sunday..... I should have saved it for Tuesday...

In case you've missed it, Florence City Mayor Stephen Wukela has proposed raising taxes on city residents by 2% over the next two years. From what I'm told, the money will be used to build additional fire stations. While it may seem like a really bad idea in these times of wnat and woe, Wukela says he has his reasons, and fiscally, it will save Florence money in the long run....

How? Well it all has to do with insurance. You know , that thing we all pay for, and never hope we have to use. Get ready for some really exciting info here, folks. One of the major factors in determining your homeowners insurance is your ISO rating. No, I don't know what ISO stands for, and I don't remember the standards are. I think it's 1-to-9, but I'm probably wrong.... All i know is that city and county leaders all freak out over ISO ratings.

Wukela says that Flotown's ISO rating will go through the roof without adding some fire stations, so that residents aren't too far from help. They are rated by reisdents per station I presume. The more stations , the better. Where Wukela says the savings are in keeping those insurance costs down for city residents. Like the census, ISO ratings are done every ten years, so if the ratings go up in Florence due to it's expansion, residents will be paying for it for a decade.... I'm sure P-Luv could cover any details that I forgot, but that is the synapsis of it....

I'm a South Florence resident, so i do find this issue to be interesting and , rarely for city politics, pertinent to myself. My side of town has grown a lot since I moved here 11 years ago, but I'll be honest - I haven't the slightest idea where the nearest fire station is. I think it's the one across from Greenwood Elementary, which is about 3 miles from home. I can think of about 5-6 other fire stations off the top of my head across the city, so there is the definite possibility that my side of town is being underserved. Wukela specifically mentioned SoFlo in is statement, so will we have one on Third Loop or Church St. Extension soon?

I've already read a Facebook message from some of my GOP friends, but here are my thoughts: like most things for me, it's a numbers deal. Will this tax be offset by my lower homeowners insurance, which I current pay about $525 a year for? If so, it may be worth it. Now onto the other questions...... With $787 BILLION flying around DC right now, is there any chance of DC footing the bill for this infrastructure project. Ed Robinson apparently is driving to DC all the time, so his rock solid connections should bear some fruit, right? Yeah, i laughed when i wrote this, but seriously, have those feelers been put out? Secondly, if we are short on needed infrastructure like fire stations and EMS, why are we pissing away ten of millions of city and state funds on Theaters, Museums and other lavish projects? That's like me getting plastic surgery, so I can look like Brad Pitt, and that maybe I'll become Brad Pitt. Gotta cover the basics first.

I know that part is a bit rough of Mayor Hickory Head..... I know this is a problem that he has inherited, and he's only been in office six months. I don't know everything, I'm just a numbers guy... What I do know is that I spend a lot more on homeowners insurance than I do on property taxes, so if a TEMPORARY 2% jack in my taxes will lower my insurance 2%, 5%, or 10%, then it makes sense to me. Someone please throw me some numbers - I hate discussing taxes in theory only, it totally defies how to approach the subject....

www.youtube.com/watch?v=oY0dVF9LoZw

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9 comments:

mg said...

we are going to raise taxes in Davis Station to build a new and better Bronco club

pluvlaw said...

Mike, in case you forgot, the Mayor has been hitting Clyburn up for all the money he can. Remember at the recent meeting when Powers and Brand complained that he was doing it on his own, without them? That's right, these guys who are complaining about the only option left on getting the things we have to get, are the same ones who tried to make political hey out of the fact that the Mayor was soliciting Washington personally to get some of the stimulus money.

A big problem with the stimulus money, I believe, is that a lot of these things have to be Brick and mortar ready. Trust me, whatever can be knocked loose from Washington will be knocked loose if the Mayor has anything to say about it.

I'm pretty sure the theater, museum and that other stuff came with Bruce and Lee footing a great deal of it. They're not exactly about fire stations and what not. And the City was committed to those projects before November 2.

Your side of town is a MAJOR concern for the Fire Department. That station you reference is not a city fire station. It's a county volunteer department. Your nearest city fire station is way in town.

I have heard that they can't get over to the Southside/South Florence High area in under 10 minutes. I think it has to be under 3 minutes to hold the current ISO rating. The closest city station for your area is either the one over on Palmetto street across from the (301) Drive-In or the one over on Edisto.

How fast you think a crew could get to your area, with traffic? So it's not just insurance rates to worry about, its a question of protecting homes and people, too.

And Moye, I don't think its possible to build a better Bronco's. That place is TIGHT already. Neon-green paint and all...

Mike Reino said...

But P-Luv, Hickory Head can't do it... Ed Robinson is THE MAN.. Ed can move mountains. Ed can made stones bleed, and only Ed can get money from DC.

I wasn't a big fan of the Stimulus, but now that it's a done deal, a fire station seems like a worthy project, compared to some. City Council's anger doesn't surprise me. Most politicans liek to be there when money comes in...

Do we have any numbers on all of this? How many stations? How much money? What will we save on insurance? These should be pretty easy numbers to figure, and it may be the key to success with voters...

pluvlaw said...

From what I understand, we are due to be ISO audited any time now. It goes from 1-4 with 1 being the best. When we get audited, an internal audit shows we will drop to the worst, 4. I'd imagine the increase that would lead to for each individual property owner would depend to some degree on his carrier. But I've been told it would mean a couple of hundred dollars per year to every policy on property in the city (a figure far in excess of the actual amount the millage increase would put on the property owners).

Right now, I think 1 station on the southside is what the internal audit shows we need to, at a minimum, keep our current rating.

While there has been no decision, it is my understanding the Fire Department would like for it to go over on Howe Springs Rd, which makes sense. That would allow them to cover 52 and Pamplico Hwy and the area in between.

It's a no brainer. You can have the increase now and receive the benefit of keeping your insurance rates low OR you can put it off, wait until the ISO drops, then fund the station AND have the higher insurance rates to go along with the higher millage.

It is a classic example of being pennywise and pound foolish.

Mike Reino said...

So, let's use my case as an average example. My homeowners insurance is $525/year. My proerty tax on the house is $180, and $300 on my car. The city taxes are what, maybe half,if that, but we'll use it as an example.

That portion would be $240 a year, so we're talking about $5 a year more, correct? Does this sound accurate to you?

pluvlaw said...

Actually, you pay zero dollars in CITY property taxes on your home in the city. County taxes are another matter, but City property taxes have not been raised in 20 years. In fact they have been cut twice in the last 20 years, which is crazy if you consider how much the city has expanded in that time.

From the Mayor's op-ed this morning:

"Thus, I propose the following: a 2.2 mill increase on property tax for the fiscal year 2009-10; followed by a 5.5 mill increase for fiscal year 2010-11.

Such increases would have surprisingly modest impacts on property taxes. In particular, this proposal would result in residential owner occupied property seeing a zero dollar increase in 2009-10.

Further, in the coming fiscal year, business property would only see an increase of $1 per month, per $100,000 in property value. Thus, in 2009-10, the owner of a $500,000 piece of business property would see an increase of $5 per month.

The change would not be much different in 2010-2011. Under this plan, in July of 2010 residential owner occupied property would pay city property taxes of $1.08 per month for a $100,000 home.

Similarly, by July 2010, business property will see a total increase in city property tax of $3.75 per month, per $100,000 of property value."

Check out that blip.tv video of the Mayor's press conference I linked to in my post on the subject. In it, he explains some of the reasons why now is actually a good time for the City to take these things on.

It really seems like a no brainer when you consider the increases we'd be looking out by not building these stations now (and we are going to have to build them sooner or later).

west_rhino said...

Charleston's ratings came into question with the Sofa Superstore tragedy. Some of it IS response time and mutual aid's availibility, which means volunteer unit or not niegboring services do have an effect on that rating. A year or two ago, James Island PSD's FD held a muster that drew units from across the region, curiously excluding City of Charleston, though all, in the following year, stood to, to back up Chucktown in response and coverage during their stand down.

Hopefully, the temporary tax hike will be offset by the Insurance Services Office's rating's affect on your rates, though station construction still doesn't cover labor cost of firefighters, though an increasing tax base should.

As to stimulus money, lots of queer things seem to have moved from another old earmark to beign re-tagged as a successful stimulus project, a few fire stations in NC come to mind, though they were almost complete by the time that the "stimulus funds" were available.

Maybe we need to put naming rights out for bid on thse facilities to offset their cost.

Mike Reino said...

Rhino, I'll give the City $100 if they name the fire station after me. They should, if I can manage to get the GOP behind the millage for it.

west_rhino said...

I think opening bid ought to be at least half of the project cost...