Wittenberg: It is time to insist upon impact fees

June 4, 2014 

WOW! Have you noticed that two local governments have determined that they will impose on residents either a special fee for fire protection or increase property taxes or both? Talk about re-distribution of wealth! Your wealth.

There is an alternative, but local elected officials don’t want to talk about it, and have you know that it exists. It is called “impact fees.”

Impact fees can be used for capital investment, but not for operating costs. For example, impact fees can pay for building a fire station, but cannot be used to pay salaries of firefighters.

Why won’t local elected officials use impact fees? Could it be that they receive nice campaign contributions from wealthy developers?

The need for additional facilities to support residents often comes from the fact that cities move to annex additional properties to gain additional tax revenue. That often comes with a cost: The city must provide necessary support services to the newly annexed properties. That might include roads, bridges, police and fire stations and the like. So, the net result is that net revenue from annexed properties is not as great as anticipated. Also, remember that those roads, bridges and public safety facilities require routine maintenance and utilities.

For locally elected officials, it is much easier to pass on the cost for new facilities to all homeowners via property tax increases rather than risk the ire of wealthy developers and lose campaign contributions. Let’s face it, the majority of homeowners simply roll over and play dead when property tax increases come their way. Hey, it’s only another $10 or so a month! Then, those same homeowners can be counted upon to re-elect the same city officials. City officials count on these two facts and can do so based on history regarding tax increases and election results.

People, it is past time to stand up before you are forever knocked down. Demand impact fees are levied upon those whose activities are generating the need for new government services while enjoying the profits of their enterprises.

Impact fees may not be perfect, but they can certainly shift governmental cost to the source that was responsible for causing the need.

If you don’t mind, let me shift to another tax revenue matter. Isn’t it about time for Georgia to bring its tax policies into the 21st century rather than remain mired in the 19th century? To generate new business investment in the state and new residents, along with the political power that they would generate, it is time to rid ourselves of the state income tax. We are surrounded by Tennessee and Florida that are able to pay their bills without an income tax. I understand that Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina is looking to eliminate its income tax.

I believe we are going to be left in the ash bin of history if we don’t move with the more forward looking states around us. If you agree, contact your state legislators and tell them what you think.

David Wittenberg resides in Kathleen. Contact him at dkw460@yahoo.com.

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