The Ada News
I am a citizen that is concerned about fire protection in Pontotoc County. However, my concern for fiscal responsibility and accountability of tax dollars far outweighs my concern for improved fire protection.
I value and greatly appreciate all the hard work of every fire department in Pontotoc County and believe that these departments may need support and assistance, but am unsure at what level.
If these departments would have a needs assessment conducted, the citizens of Pontotoc County and I would know exactly what each one needed and the total costs of these improvements. A needs assessment is vital to any sales tax initiative because it shows exactly how taxpayer money will be spent and without one how can I be sure that the over $1 million per year that this sales tax initiative generates will be used to address the actual needs of these departments?
The sales tax initiative on the ballot on April 3rd would increase the sales tax in Pontotoc County by a quarter of a cent for 7 years, which would be split evenly between 15 fire departments. Projections indicate that this tax would generate over 7 million dollars, which would give each fire department over $500,000, when most are operating on $10,000 or less per year. This significant increase in funding has no accountability structure behind it, and there’s no guarantee these taxpayer funds would be spent to improve fire protection for the citizens of Pontotoc County.
There are already questions regarding the eligibility of nearly half the departments in Pontotoc County to receive these funds. If the sales tax initiative passes and these departments are ruled ineligible what would happen to the money collected for these departments? Would it sit idle, never to be spent, or would it be split between the eligible departments, which would mean only certain areas of the county would see improvements in fire protection?
Without an accountability structure and a needs assessment there is the potential for the misuse of funds and the citizens of Pontotoc County could potentially invest over $7 million of taxpayer money into purchases that don’t improve the fire protection available to us.
I am also concerned that this initiative was rushed to the ballot and other funding options were not considered. I believe that there are several different funding options available and these options should be explored. If this initiative fails on April 3rd, I, and I’m sure other citizens, would gladly assist the fire departments with developing a taskforce that would review all the options, conduct a needs assessment, and develop a plan to address these needs, which would include the proper funding source. This taskforce would insure that the fire departments in Pontotoc County get the support they need, but with the accountability and planning that is needed with any project that seeks public financial support.
I believe that every citizen of Pontotoc County deserves fire protection but not at the cost of responsible government. Because there is no needs assessment, no accountability, and no planning, the only logically choice is to Vote NO on April 3rd. I cannot support the firefighter tax in its current form and encourage you to vote NO as well.
By voting NO, you’re not voting against the fire departments, you’re simply giving them and the citizens of Pontotoc County an opportunity to sit down together to develop a solid plan to get these departments the support they need in a fiscally responsible manner.