Fee Fee Fie Fo
A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor and bread it has earned -- this is the sum of good government. - THOMAS JEFFERSON
Get this the City of San Buenaventura has decided on advice from a paid consultant to eliminate taxes and substitute fee for service. Well, not exactly. They are on course to levy taxes AND charge fees for the same services. That'll teach the rabble to exercise democracy in a town controlled by planning elites. Note; emphasis added.
Inspection fee draws fire
The city of Ventura Fire Department has sent a bill along with its annual reminder to some 1,200 homeowners near brush-covered areas, notifying them that they owe a $99 fee for weed-abatement inspections, even if they do their own weed clearing.
The fee is necessary to pay for hundreds of hours of annual inspections that the department no longer can afford, Fire Marshal Brian Clark said.
"We need to recover our costs," he said. "We need a sustainable funding source for this program. That's the bottom line."
The inspection fee — another apparent first in Ventura County for the city — quickly drew fire from hillside homeowners like Mary Lory, who said she and husband Ernie have taken proactive measures for 20 years to rid their backyard on Via Cielito of weeds and unnecessary brush buildup.
She said she was aghast when she opened her city letter Tuesday — Tax Day — and discovered yet another fee placed on residents and an invoice stating that if she didn't pay by June 1, she would be cited, fined and face a lien placed against her property.
Ventura has also drawn fire for being the first city in Southern California to charge for 911 service.
Fire prevention is important, Lory said, but she's frustrated that city leaders didn't give residents any notice or a chance to comment before forcing them to pay for a basic government service.
"The city kept insisting it's not a tax and not a penalty," she said of a conversation she had with a Fire Department employee. "I told her, You can choose to call it what you want. I choose to call it extortion.' "
Ventura used to collect a small administrative fee in the early 1990s, Clark said, but it was suspended after concerns rose regarding compliance with statewide fee statutes.
Last year, the city hired an independent auditor, Maximus Inc., which suggested the costs of the fire prevention program could be passed on to property owners who benefit the most, Clark said. As a result, the fee was re-established at $99 by the City Council as part of the city's annual fee update in June, he said.
None of the 1,252 property owners sent bills this week were explicitly notified of the June public hearing outside normal postings, and there was no public comment on the fee, minutes of the City Council meeting show.
Asked if the city considered a public education campaign, Clark said there was little point.
"We considered a full-scale media campaign," he said. "But what's the difference between notifying people and sending a bill? It just adds to the cost."
The inspection fee comes on the heels of a controversial monthly charge imposed on residents' phone lines by the City Council this year for 911 dispatch services. Critics say the 911 fee is a tax that should go to voters for approval, and hillside resident Royce Townsend sees the inspection fee in the same vein.
Ventura Mayor Christy Weir said the fee is part of a city effort to recoup money for direct services when feasible. The city faces a $4 million deficit in the budget that begins July 1.
Let's be clear here. This is a tax. Let's be even more clear. $99 is an outrageous tax. Think about it. The fireman comes to your house, looks at your weeds and leaves. The fee were it based on costs looks to be recovering some $2000/hr but what can you expect from a ccity council that is spending money to look at burying the freeway.
Blog note; I've been lazy aand lots of good stuff has piled up. I'll clear the backlog and put up 3-4 posts per day and then get back on track. Seaworld was fun and they didn't mistake me for the walrus.
Update: Homer has a point. Addendum attached.
And so Casey and Akubi don't feel neglected: