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At the first Lancaster County Council meeting of 2014, county officials continued their own local version of the big government decision process. A fee increase on businesses was proposed without any studies or projections. The proposal will affect business owners in the Indian Land and Pleasant Valley fire protection districts.
The proposal will take the current fire fee of $75 per 2,500 square feet to $75 per 2,000 square feet. This is a 25 percent increase in the current fees. So, a commercial building with 10,000 square feet that now pays a fee of $300 will begin paying $375 with the fall 2014 bills. Residential property is exempt from this proposal.
When one councilman asked what the estimated revenue would be, a county official said, “We will not know until you pass this and we implement it later this year.” Does this sound familiar? We heard the same argument from Nancy Pelosi in 2010 when the Affordable Care Act was pushed through. Only now are we beginning to see the impact of that decision.
One of the leaders proposing the increase said the expected increased budget needs “may be around $40,000, but if more was raised, we would find a place to use it.” One council member said, “So what if it raises a million dollars? We will find a place to spend it.”
And I believe they will find a place to spend more, because government always does.
Is this the way we want our county officials handling their responsibilities? Do we want increases in fees (which is another form of tax) without regard to the amount of revenue projected? Businesses have no vote so this makes them more palatable targets for these increases.
The information for a well- thought-out decision is available, but has not been gathered. One solution to determine the potential revenue from this fee increase is to identify the properties from prior tax years that will be affected by this increase and calculate the potential fees on the identified properties at the new proposed fee.
Then the actual fees collected on the properties can be compared to the increased fees under the new proposal. This will not account for new properties or properties that have added square footage, but the council will have better data to make a decision on this increase, compared to currently having no information at all. Perhaps the fee increase is spot on. Maybe it is too low. Or maybe it is too high. Without additional information, we just do not know its impact.
The proposed fee increase for both areas is to cover the cost of additional staff for the fire districts. There is no argument against the need for this staff increase. The growth experienced in the Panhandle has outpaced the funding for these departments. The problem is how the county goes about addressing the need. This type of decision-making must not go unchecked.
If big government practices are what Lancaster County Council members are following, this type of decision-making will be used for other increases in fees and taxes throughout the county. Business owners not in the Panhandle, do not think this increase does not apply to you. Today, this is true. Tomorrow, if unchecked, other increases without regard to the revenue amounts will be coming our way.
Our whole lives we have watched as decisions we do not agree with have been made at the national level. Many decisions at the state level have followed Washington’s lead. Even more recently, decisions made at the local level seem to be mirroring those of the state and Washington. Many of these decisions affect our everyday lives. And all these decisions impact the lives of our children.
Where do you see Lancaster County in five years, 10 years, the next generation or your grandchildren’s generation? Are the decisions being made representative of your beliefs and views? If you are like many in our county, unless there is change, the future will not be what it could be. How do we change this?
The only way this will change is if we elect officials who are willing to stand for and vote for conservative positions. I promise to be such a person. I have been involved in the political process for decades.
Through engaging state and federal officials via calls, letters and emails, I have consistently supported and proposed conservative ideas.
I believe the best days of Lancaster, South Carolina and the United States are before us. But we will only experience them if we join together and return government to its original intent – establish justice, provide safety, enable liberty and encourage free enterprise.
Too many people focus solely on Washington as the core issue. We must change our homes’ direction before we will change our nation’s direction.
I am John Hess and I am running for Lancaster County Council District 4 in 2014.
I thank you for your prayers and your support. God bless you.