Our Opinion: Life and taxes

Today's topic is why we all pay for government services even though each of us does not personally use every service government provides.

The new Library District board has come under fire recently for its decision to levy the maximum property tax rate immediately, rather than get through the first year as frugally as possible. We were among the critics, although we have always firmly supported the county library system and still do.

It's understandable that some voters who supported the measure creating the Library District feel betrayed by the decision because supporters suggested during the campaign that the top rate likely wouldn't be needed right away. It's really not about the money — the difference between the 60-cent rate and the status-quo rate of 40 cents amounts to all of $50 a year on a $250,000 house, or about four bucks a month.

It's the principle.

But on principle, we can't summon much sympathy for those critics who continue to raise the "user-fee" argument. It goes something like this:

"I never use the library, so why should I have to pay for it? Why don't the libraries charge an annual fee for a library card, and an hourly fee for Internet service?"

Government services are provided to all — users and non-users alike — and everyone helps pay for them. That's how government works.

Most people have never needed to call the fire department — but if they do, firefighters race to their house and put out the fire without asking for payment because all of us pay taxes to maintain fire protection.

If the libraries should charge a user fee, maybe police officers should start accepting credit card payments when they come to the door to take a burglary report.

Motorists pay gas taxes and vehicle license fees to help pay for road construction and maintenance, but that doesn't cover the whole cost. Maybe Central and Riverside should be toll roads so no one has to pay any taxes to fill the potholes and paint the center lines.

We support libraries because they serve as repositories of knowledge and learning that contribute to the culture of the community. The instructional programs offer opportunities for community residents to learn about current affairs, science, music, art and myriad other topics.

Children's programs help foster a love of reading and exploration that will serve our young people throughout their lives and make them more productive citizens.

The computers and Internet access are invaluable for many in the community who are looking for work and cannot afford an Internet connection of their own. When they find a job, they can begin contributing more to the local economy, which benefits everyone.

It's fine to cast a skeptical eye on the decisions of government officials regarding how they spend our money. To suggest that we should never have to pay taxes for services we don't use reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of what it means to live in a civilized society.

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