Mayor Jim Ireton: Double taxation must end, fair Fire Service Agreement needed

 Monday of this week marked 100 days since the city of Salisbury asked County Executive Bob Culver and the Wicomico County Council to address the double-taxation of Salisbury residents, as well as the lack of a working Fire Service Agreement between the city and county.

These are important issues that affect both Salisbury and Wicomico County. While I fully respect that the new county executive and council are still early in their tenures and have been dealing with a variety of matters, their blatant lack of attention to this is deeply troubling.

In a letter delivered Jan. 2, the City Council and I asked for a property tax setoff to rectify the more than $1 million differential between the taxes city residents pay, and the services they receive from the county in return.

The City Council and I also asked the county to adopt an assessable base option for fire and EMS in Wicomico County. This has been a problem that we have sought discussion about for years.

The assessable base model is used to provide for the costs for protecting/responding to calls for service demanded by, and directly related to, the amount of real properties and residents in a given fire district. It’s pretty obvious that the city is carrying a significant financial burden for providing fire protection and emergency services.

Data from the County G.I.S. and 911 Computer Aided Dispatch System shows the city responds to 62.95 percent of the fire calls in Wicomico County, yet the Salisbury only received 23.87 percent of the county’s total funding for fire and EMS in FY 2014.

These inequities amount to $2.2 million in fire service costs that Salisbury provides to county residents, but the county residents don’t reimburse the city.

Yes, Salisbury residents are also Wicomico County citizens; yes, we are one community. No, I take no pleasure in being part of an exercise that plays the city against the county.

As mayor, however, my first obligation is to the residents and businesses within the Salisbury city limits. It is my job to ensure their tax dollars are used correctly.

When those tax are used beyond the city limits — even when they benefit our fellow county citizens — I have to make sure those dollars are recaptured for city taxpayers.

The silence from the county has been deafening. County Executive Bob Culver and the County Council have had our request for 100 days now, but the citizens of Salisbury, Fruitland and Delmar have yet to receive a single word in response.

In my upcoming presentation of the Fiscal 2016 city budget, I will be making a blunt and extremely direct case for response.

We’re no closer now to a working Fire Service Agreement than we were over three months ago. We’re no closer to equity for Salisbury taxpayers than we were over three months ago.

My hope is that the County Executive will take steps to deliver on his campaign promises to reduce taxes, control spending and  provide real tax relief to people who are bearing an unfair burden.

Salisbury is offering him a way to make it right.

James Ireton is Salisbury’s mayor.

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