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Welcome to Pasco. It's time to pay up

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By JAN GLIDEWELL, Times Columnist

© St. Petersburg Times
published March 7, 2003

We are in a developer's office somewhere in Pasco County around the year 2010, and a recent arrival is eagerly waiting to close.

"Okay, Mr. Jones, it seems all the paperwork is in order here so all you have to do is go get your certificate of occupancy stamped at the BORED and you're on your way. It's just a formality.

"Board? What board?"

"BORED," the developer explains, "the Bureau Of Relocative Economic Dissuasion." They just make sure that all of the impact fees have been paid."

"What are impact fees," Jones asks.

"Well," the developer says, "they are a way that government can raise money without having to use the word "taxes," because every time they do that, everyone gets thrown out of office, and it takes six months to teach the new commissioners things like where the bathrooms are. So they call them impact fees and added in what were called user fees, and that way they are only sticking it to new arrivals, not voters who are already here."

"But I'm a voter," Jones says.

"Yeah, but you don't know who voted for which fee and although a lot of folks like you move in every year, there are never enough of them at one time to vote against incumbents. Besides, after you've been here for six months, you will be insisting that the county stick it to the people who arrived after you."

At the BORED office, Jones notices that he has to put 50 cents into a turnstile to get in. He hands the sheaf of papers given him by the developer over to a clerk behind the desk.

"Okay, let's see," the clerk says, "environmental impact fees, traffic impact fee, fire protection, law enforcement, libraries, recreation, the Wal-Mart fee . . . "

"Wal-Mart fee?" Jones is incredulous.

"Yes," she says, it appears you are almost six blocks from the nearest Wal-Mart Supercenter. . . . Wow, you are out in the woods, aren't you?"

"So I have to pay for that?"

"It's not our fault that you want to be a hermit," she huffs.

"But if your fees are so user friendly, why do I have to pay for the other stuff . . . like libraries? I don't read. And I don't plan on using any recreational facilities."

She sighs tiredly, "That's what they all say at first."

"But . . ."

"If you want to protest your fees," she says, holding up a warning hand, "you'll have to appear before the BORED Board and it will cost $7.50 to be on the agenda, and another $1,500 for the board to hold a meeting. You can't expect the taxpaying residents to bear the expense of you wanting to whine about paying your fair share."

"But I thought developers were supposed to pay these fees and pass them along to the buyer," Jones says.

"They used to, but when the cost of the average home in the county was pushed past $750,000, they lobbied to have it paid directly by the consumer," she says, adding, "Hmmmm, you have a two-bathroom house, is that right?"

"Yes," Jones says. "Why?"

"You'll have to pay the extra toilet fee."

"But," he says desperately, "I'm going to be using it as a planter."

"Real or artificial," she says.

"Uh . . . real?" he guesses.

"Sorry, real flowers require watering, and that water has to go somewhere, doesn't it?"

"This is ridiculous." Jones says. "How much is all of this going to cost?"

She makes a few quick stabs at her calculator, "Okay," that is a total of $93,000 and then you add in the 10 percent IFIF . . ."

"IFIF?" Jones gasps, what is that?

"Impact Fee Impact Fee," she says, "You think administering all of these fees is cheap? And don't forget to drop by the School Board on your way out; they have a class size thing they want to talk to you about."

"Why would anyone want to live in this place," Jones screams in frustration.

"Because," the clerk says smiling serenely, "we have really low taxes."

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