Recently, I put forth a motion after a constituent questioned a $12,000 bill he received from our Fire Rescue Services, after a fire destroyed his home. This is not a small sum of money – nowhere near the insurance deductible you will pay if you are in a car accident.
It started with an inquiry that publicly asked, “Are we charging people for basic Fire Services?” To the Fire Chief’s credit, the department said, “Yes.” Then, the motion – unanimously passed by council – basically asked that Administration go back and look at what types of fees we could and should be charging citizens in the unfortunate event of a fire, and how they should be determined and monitored – if any at all.
The counter-argument was that your personal insurance will pay for it. Sure – your insurance might pay for some of it; it does not pay for all of it. There are no free lunches. If we are in a car accident, we have two options: we pay for the damages out of pocket, or we go through insurance. Yes, there is a deductible, but after that, the costs are covered. The unfortunate aftermath is that our insurance almost always goes up. We are not charged twice, and after paying taxes, a $12,000 bill is being charged twice. But, that’s beside the point.
As citizens, we plan for contingencies. We have savings accounts; we have insurance, and we pay taxes. $12,000 isn’t a lot to the City, but it can be a make it or break it amount for a citizen. But, again – beside the point.
I value and respect our fire department. It’s not an easy job. I also value our tax-paying citizens. Council continues to raise taxes, and our citizens repeatedly tell me that they do not see a rise in value of services. There has to be a line somewhere.
Our taxes cover many things that upkeep our city. They also go towards Emergency Services – which includes Fire. We pay for these basic services regardless of whether we use them regularly, and let’s face it – we really hope we don’t, but we still pay. We pay for them with the expectation that when we need them, that investment will be returned in full. That is the point.