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Milking the cash cow

By Staff | Jun 17, 2021

Kudos to the members of Cape Coral City Council who understand that those who do not receive a service should not have to pay for it.

The elected board on Wednesday rejected a redux on an ordinance just approved last month that changes the way property owners pay for backend solid waste collection services.

By a vote of 5-2 with Council members Gloria Tate and Tom Hayden dissenting and Councilmember Rick Williams absent, the elected board stood by its decision to assess Cape property owners for their share of support for Lee County’s solid waste disposal facilities via a Municipal Service Benefit Unit assessment.

Previously, the city was the lone entity in Lee to use a different assessment method, a Municipal Service Taxing Unit.

Note the key word changes here: Benefit vs. taxing.

An MSBU is accessed on those who use the service, in this case those who put a trash can, palm fronds or old furniture by the curb.

An MSTU taxes, well, everybody, based on the value of the property. In the Cape, that includes the 42,698 owners of undeveloped properties that generate no trash to be picked up for collection and then disposed of at the county facility.

Council got the inequity of asking those who receive no benefit to subsidize those who do back in May when they voted to change the methodology.

And then got cold feet when the reality that eliminating the subsidy would require some homeowners to pay more came home to roost.

How much more will homeowners pay?

It varies, depending on the home’s taxable valuation. Homeowners who currently pay no property taxes due to Homestead and other exemptions will now pay about $30 per year. Homeowners with a taxable valuation of up to $100,000 will pay $21 more, those with taxable valuation up to $200,000, $5 more per year. Other homeowners will see a decrease.

We get that a tax increase is a tax increase but homeowners should make that argument at budget time when the city eyes the increased revenue it will receive from increased property valuations. It’s a much more fair argument than maintaining your prospective new neighbor should continue to help you out until they build on the lot next door.

Mayor John Gunter said it well Wednesday night.

“I have a hard time billing someone who is being charged and not utilizing a service,” Mayor Gunter said. “It was a good system at one time, but with the growth we’re having, I would not repeal.”

We’re not sure it ever was a good system as we are not among those who view the Cape’s undeveloped properties as a cash cow to be milked for services and benefits not received.

If Council wants to repeal bad legislation, we suggest they revisit the impact-fee-turned-capital-facility-expansion-charge. It was $6,750 for North 1 based on the concept that those lots are going to impact water and sewer plants some day. It’s a similar money grab from vacant parcel owners, who do pay their shares for bringing in the service, to subsidize the owners of developed properties.

— Breeze editorial