Local taxes not enough – California town to charge $300 for 911 calls

This summer Tracy, California plans to charge residents a $300 fee for 911 medical calls unless you have “purchased” a $48 annual subscription. In my opinion, user fees for parks and other state and local recreation activities may be appropriate, but for emergency services?

Tracy’s town slogan is Think Outside the Triangle. They certainly are doing that. Hat tip to Allahpundit at Hot Air.

This sets a bad precedent, but  it’s been done in other communities. I’m not sure what the tax rate is in Tracy, but five minutes of online research indicates the median home price is more than $350,000, the population is about 80,000, and those with mortgages are paying around $4,000 for real estate property taxes. It’s not a unusually high amount compared to similar communities, but at what point do residents say “hold on a second here.”

It’s not clear if the resident who calls 911 will be charged or the resident who needs medical assistance will be charged, but I’m wondering how they plan to enforce the mandate. If you refuse to buy the “subscription” will they send a debt collector for the $300 if you don’t pay up?

What if you are in need of multiple assistance calls during the year and have not paid? Will they just stop coming in the future?

The incorporated city of Tracy is $9 million short on their budget and they need to raise funds and/or cut services. I’m unable to successfully download the overview of the city budget for 2009/2010, but just like every other community in America, Tracy depends on property tax revenue based on appraised value of real estate. Appraisals are down.

Again, similar to many other cities, Tracy enjoyed a prolonged period of steady growth across the board. Property values increased, revenue increased, and they spent every single dime and then some. Times were good.

The chickens have come home to roost.

Some city council members are pulling the what-is-someone’s-life-worth card which is despicable and irrational at the same time. Of course one’s life is worth $300 or only $48 per year, but if that is their argument, why not jack the fee up to $3,000 per call or $1,000 per year? Certainly a life is worth that much isn’t it?


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Steve McGough

Steve's a part-time conservative blogger. Steve grew up in Connecticut and has lived in Washington, D.C. and the Bahamas. He resides in Connecticut, where he’s comfortable six months of the year.

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