Guest Editorial


Property tax and fire services

george a. rossI am opposed to a property tax to pay for my fire services.  A property tax allows government to spend irresponsibly on programs that citizens have an obligation to attend to themselves.  Cave Creek and its local government are like every other town and government in our country; we are not unique.  Citizens who take no personal responsibility for their bad decisions expect that their government should resolve these decisions for them. Governments have never met a program they didn’t want to spend money on.  So, “bail me out” is the cry and taxation is the answer. 

Cave Creek is a rural low density community.  Our current zoning insures we will remain a low density community.  The cost of living in this type of community will always be greater per person for services.  As citizens clamber for and receive more services the costs of these services will always be greater than the more densely populated communities.  A citizen’s personal decision to move into a low density, rural community connotes a decision to live with fewer services or pay more for these services.  The use of property taxes to pay for these services is “the death of a thousand cuts.” 

The first cut is not so bad; in fact, it is quite bearable.  By the time you get to the 999th cut, the tax payer is “bled white”.  Just look at states like New York, Illinois and California to prove the point.  The property tax door never closes and year after year the tax rate continues to rise.  Just as the “Spur Cross” property tax is about to expire, the cry for an additional property tax is initiated.  Remember what was promised on the “Spur Cross” initiative, “no further property taxes” once the loan was paid off.  A more recent example of promises made and not kept is the current local sales tax issue: the ½ percent increase would expire at the end of a year, after a review by government it did not.  A reason to continue or raise a tax will always be found by government.

Our town government is proposing to bail out a failing company, Rural Metro.  The economy is in a down turn, values and markets are shrinking and Rural Metro is raising their rates to cover their costs.  Their market share has declined but I do not see any effort on their part to either reduce costs or expand their market share.  In fact, they have a history of abandoning their customer base. Ask Scottsdale what transpired a few years ago.  Rural Metro indicates that they will respond to any fire but if you do not subscribe for their services they will bill and if necessary sue you for the cost of their efforts.  To my knowledge, they have never done that.  If a property owner does not have a contract and no human lives are at stake, I would rather see Rural Metro seal off the fire to prevent spreading and let the building burn if an agreement to pay for services is not rendered.  Are you aware that the total annual number of house fires in Cave Creek per year is 2 -3?  I recognize if it is your house, it is a 100% issue but Cave Creek is like “chicken little” crying the “sky is falling”.  This manufactured problem, created by whining citizens, has other options. Many rural communities solve this problem with volunteer fire departments; it might be worth looking into this process before we bail out a poorly managed company.  In fact, it might be prudent to do that before they collapse.  Further, do not be concerned about the loss of EMT services.  Southwest Ambulance provides this coverage and your health insurance pays the bill; those without insurance are billed for services rendered.  A more appropriate answer than the example set by Rural Metro.

Just remember there are numerous other local interest groups waiting in the wings with what they consider worthy programs that would just require a small property tax to execute.  The list is endless and they all seem so wonderful.  We are a young town so the initial tax burden will not seem so onerous but it will become “the death of a thousand cuts.”

I pay for my subscription for fire service from Rural Metro and I will continue to do so until it becomes more economically sound to self insure. I have always and will in the future pay for services rendered.  That is what all responsible citizens do. I oppose property taxes in general.  I did support and vote for the “Spur Cross” property tax based on the promises made by the Mayor, Council and the Town Manager.  I strongly oppose a property tax to provide for fire services.