EDITORIAL: This tax thing is really worth considering

Make no mistake — we aren’t big fans of new taxes here in Coastal Point land.

However, there are certain times that require big measures, and the Bethany Beach Volunteer Fire Company’s district would appear to be in one of those times right now. Due to increased growth and a 60 percent hike in response calls for the Millville Volunteer Fire Company’s (MVFC) ambulance service, the MVFC recently said that they would have to discontinue ambulance service in Bethany Beach in 2009.

Yes, this is another example of growth moving faster than available services, but that’s for another day. What this situation needs is an answer. It’s bad enough for people in our community to have to travel so far for emergency services the majority of the year, but what if ambulance service is taken away as well?

Legislation is making its way around Dover right now that, if passed, would create a special tax district in the Bethany Beach Volunteer Fire Company’s (BBVFC) coverage area. The BBVFC would then be able to propose a tax increase in that district to cover the costs of providing ambulance service.

This is similar to what the schools do in their referendums. They are able to just poll the people who live in the school district and draw revenues from taxes. And, make no mistake, every individual is affected by the presence, or lack thereof, of ambulance services.

“I think it’s a good idea,” said Sussex County State Fire Commissioner Danny Magee. “The fire department lays out their needs to the people and how much money it is going to take ... to fund this thing. This would be a new mode of financing fire departments and ambulance services in the state.”

Last year, it was reported, Millville ambulances responded to 544 calls in Bethany’s district. That’s about one-and-a-half calls a day — with an obvious increase in the summer months. Certainly not all of those calls were of the life-and-death variety, and some were no doubt false alarms, but rest assured that each genuine call was important to some person. Take that service away and the quality of life for those in Bethany’s district takes as bad a hit as it can.

We’re not coming out of the chute and endorsing people in Bethany’s district to go ahead and vote for ambulance service at the taxpayer’s expense. But we are strongly supporting this legislation being passed so people can take a look at the cold hard facts and make informed decisions.