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Hall can solve its budget crisis by charging user fees

POSTED: June 18, 2011 12:06 p.m.

Hall County doesn't need to raise taxes. It needs to implement user fees to cover any budget shortfalls. Shortfalls, incidentally, largely resulting from ridiculous expenditures such as our former county commissions push to buy the old Liberty Mutual complex or build an unneeded community center near my own North Hall home.

Library users really couldn't balk too much at a small per-day charge to check out books or digital media, or small charges to use computers. Park users couldn't really complain over modest day-use fees to enjoy our beautiful parks, boat ramps, tennis courts, etc.

Organized sports teams (soccer, baseball, softball, etc.) can certainly pay small fees to use facilities and cover the costs of maintenance and lights. Want to park in the county parking deck by the courthouse? How about a dollar-per-hour charge or a discounted monthly parking rate for county employees?

And while we're at it, let's dump those rolling money pits called Red Rabbit buses that travel almost empty most of the time.

As for emergency services and public safety, not a single sane citizen would want any reductions. But why should all taxpayers be expected to fund what's used by a relative few? I will gladly pay substantive fees if and when a life-saving ambulance with EMT personnel is needed for a member of my family. Or if my house is on fire, I certainly won't resent a bill to cover the costs of equipment and personnel dispatched.

And why not triple or quadruple my fine if I'm cited for speeding? I want my peace officers and firefighters paid handsomely by the people who most directly use their services. But I don't think every taxpayer should pay more to cover the expenses of a relative few.

Here's the simple deal, county commissioners: As the owner of both a home and a small business in Hall County, I expect to pay for the water I use and the electricity I consume. But I do not expect to pay for my neighbors' utilities. I pay only for what I consume.

That's the message. Let we, the people, pay for what we consume at the point of consumption. Confiscation in the form of higher property taxes is just more Obama-style socialism with a different name.

We already pay plenty of taxes for all our basic government services. We don't need to pay more to cover nonessential services, but we don't need to eliminate those services, either. We just need to let those who use the services pay the bills.

Craig Cook
Gainesville



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