A recent post on Progressive Toledo, "How are they your tax dollars," has raised significant questions about tax dollars and our ability to tell elected officials how we want our monies spent. I've commented on the post, but I wanted to go a different direction and speculate about how government services are provided...
Progressive Toledo's premise is that we can't identify where, specifically, our individual dollars have gone, so we lose ability to make the argument "I don't want my tax dollars to be spent on (fill in the blank)." Each year, I get two notices about my property taxes. Including in this bill are 'fees and assessments" for such things as snow removal, leaf pick-up, tree-trimming, etc...
Considering the blog and the services, I wondered if ala carte government might not be a possibilitiy. What if I could go through the various city services and select which ones I wanted to receive and, consequently, pay for? What if I could pick leaf pick-up but not snow removal? I've got a 4-wheel drive Jeep, so I don't really worry about too much snow, at least, not in Toledo. But I do have lots of trees and more leaves in the fall than I can compost...
What if I could select Fire services, but decline trash pickup? If I could find a private company to dispose of my trash for a lesser cost than what the city charged, I'd be better off. What if, instead of funding an economic development department, I'd prefer my tax dollars to go toward computer services/IT to help make various departments more efficient or to expand my ability to access government services on line?
What if ALL city services were usage based - like water and sewer? This would do several things:
1) It would, by participation, show which city services people thought were a priority.
2) It would inject competition into the delivery of services, thereby reducing consumer costs and/or increasing levels of service.
3) It would also inject personal responsibility into the equation - by making you responsible for any services you DIDN'T select.
Now, I realize that this isn't a comprehensive plan - it's more of a 'what if' question. And I can already hear people say - 'what about someone who doesn't pick fire service and then their house burns down?' Well, that was their decision and they are responsible for the consequences.
And this might not work for all government services, but it works for some already (water and sewer) and I think it's worth exploring in other departments as well. What do you think?