To the editor:
"I did not have sex with that woman"; "you can keep your doctor..." The competition is stiff, but with this following entry from his recent letter to Cape Coral property owners City Manager Szerlag is hopeful to enter the Pantheon of great liars: "[a] group of property owners is challenging the 'ready to serve' methodology [and] if we have to change direction and use 'calls for service' which the challengers apparently prefer, the additional cost could exceed $200.00."
The group of property owners to which he refers are the people who the City sued - you, the property owner. The challenge is to the mal-apportioned burden created by the tier 1 "ready to serve" methodology not the "ready to serve" concept itself. The challenge is about the apportionment in tier 1. Tier 1 is forcing the small individual homeowner to subsidize the large property holder. As a homeowner with a typical 1/4-acre plot, you are paying $62.02 for the tier 1 "ready to serve" assessment. This sum is exactly the same amount that a large land owner with a multi-acre plot pays. That is a FACT - a 200 acre plot pays the same $62.02 as you do. On a square foot basis you, the homeowner, are paying 800 times more! Is this an equitable distribution of the "ready to serve" methodology as Mr. Szerlag claims? Furthermore, as the charge is an assessment you cannot deduct it on your federal income tax while the large acre holder with a business investment can write off the amount as a business investment expense. Is this "more fair and equitable" as Mr. Szerlag states? If the "ready to serve" methodology were equitably apportioned you would be paying less not more as Mr. Szerlag threatens if he does not get his way.
If Mr. Szerlag truly wanted "a partnership between the City and the community" as his letter states he would have asked you, the taxpayer, for your opinion. This could easily have been accomplished by referendum, not by sharp legal tactics that involve the City suing you, the over burdened property owner. I for one voted no on the idea of an assessment back in 2009 when it was presented to City Council. Like all of us government should live within a budget and not constantly seek more ways to separate you from your money.
Mr. Szerlag's letter makes much of reducing "the property tax rate by .25 mils and send[ing] more than $2 million back to property owners." He does not mention that the fire assessment will cost you $12 million yielding a net increase of $10 million more you, the property owners will have to pay.
There are many other things wrong with this assessment such as the value-based aspect of tier 2 assessment which contrary to 50-years of Florida law. Unfortunately space does not permit to a full discussion of all the legal infirmities.
The one truth in Mr. Szerlag's letter; that this assessment is 38 percent of the fire services cost is for the first year only. Mark my words, each year it will be increased until the assessment covers 100 percent of the fire service budget, a cost which is now covered by your property taxes.
Mr. Szerlag, tear down this wall of misinformation and tell it like it is.
William P. Deile