City Hall is attempting to bypass the courts and create a series of fees instead.
The City of Carbondale's latest attempt to improperly, and possibly illegally, raise taxes, called the "Fire Protection Fee Ordinance," should be considered a call to action for all property owners in the city to stand up and fight the waste, ignorance, and absolute stupidity that is occurring in Carbondale City Hall.
The City of Carbondale's Fire Protection Fee Ordinance requires all property owners in the City to pay a $50 fee for fire protection — a service that has always been provided to property owners in the city from our City's current mix of real estate and income taxes.
But now (at City Council meetings) we have been told that the City's ability to raise taxes has been blocked by the Lackawanna County Courts. So City Hall is attempting to bypass the courts and create a series of fees instead.
But are these fees allowable?
Based on my understanding of state and city law (having served as chairman of Carbondale City Council's Finance Committee for two years), these fees are not allowable in Third Class cities in the Commonwealth if their sole purpose is to add monies to the General Fund for current expenditures, such as fire protection, sewer repairs, etc. These fees are only allowable for such items as building permits, business permits, and capital expenditures, such as purchasing equipment.
So based on what state laws or statutes are these fees being created? The ordinance should contain reference to those state laws or statutes. But they are not even specifically stated within those ordinances themselves. I contend there is no specific reference in the ordinances because the fees are not allowable.
A flat $50 fire fee requires owners of small, undeveloped properties (whose property value tends to be very little) to pay the same amount as those with large, developed properties, whose property values tend to be much larger. In doing so, these flat fees are then not proportionate to the value of the property being taxed or the value of the service being provided to that property. A property assessed at $1,000 (whose current tax is $28.97) gets charged the same $50 fire fee as a property assessed at $100,000 (whose current tax would be $2,897. The $1,000 property gets a 173% tax increase, while the $100,000 property gets a 1.73% tax increase.
This is not fair, which is why the courts do not allow it and will find it unreasonable when I challenge it in the courts.
The time has come for those in office to stop trying to figure out how to get more money from taxpayers, and start trying to find ways to trim the fat and excess from the budget. The mayor and City Council must be vigilant and they must be determined if they want to reduce the deficit and budget of the City to levels the taxpayers can maintain.
I ask property owners of the City of Carbondale to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me your opinions, how your plan to fight this fight, and how we can stop allowing this to continue.