Suwannee Residents Upset Over New Fire Tax

There was a public meeting in Live Oak Tuesday evening on proposed solid waste assessment changes, but the real fire storm came after the second item on the agenda, proposed fire assessments.

Arthur Barnes says, "They're already charging you a tax for the buildings that you have and now they want to come back and charge an additional tax. That's taxing the tax. That's unconstitutional."

The new rates include assessments on homes, businesses and undeveloped lands in Suwannee County. Some rates lower, say county officials, and some higher. The new charge is the tax on vacant properties.

Johnny Wooley, Suwannee County coordinator, says, "Fifty-five percent of our calls is to vacant property. If they receive a benefit, they have to share in the cost or expense."

Sharon Richardson, a Suwannee County resident, says, "We do not have fire protection out there. I don't mind paying as long as they got fire protection, but they closed down our little volunteer department."

Commissioners had mailed out letters to all property owners letting them know how much their assessments would be according to acreage. It also warned that residents can lose their property title if they don't pay up.

Arthur Williams, a concerned citizen, says, "The fact that we're sending out what appears as a threatening statement on letter was not pleasant to us."

Both assessments were approved at the meeting. The assessments go into effect the new budget year, which begins October 1.