September 22, 2016 2:19 PM
Double dipping on taxpayers and, sometimes, insurance companies. That’s what some fire departments are doing according to a recent Fox5 i-Team investigation. And Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens is aware of it.
It appears that fire departments around the state of Georgia, though funded through state and county taxes, are sending people bills for service after responding to vehicle accidents. Departments also receive funds from a premium tax which is paid through insurance companies. In 2015 alone, Georgia paid out $526 million in premium taxes.
The issue was brought to light after an accident in Lumpkin County were a man’s vehicle was totaled. First responders tended to the scene and helped clear the debris. After the accident, the family received a “Fire Recovery USA” bill for $1,400 for emergency response services at the tune of roughly $400 an hour.
What’s even more interesting, though, is that Commissioner Hudgens told the Fox5 investigators that if you get a second bill, you shouldn’t pay it. In the interview, Hudgens said, “They’re technically not breaking the law, but the consumer doesn’t have to pay it.”
As a resident of South Georgia, where rural areas struggle to provide services like this, I’m conflicted. I never support double dipping, but our property taxes don’t seem to be covering the fees necessary to provide services. So many of the counties around me are spending more than they’re bringing in every month. The few options available are to raise property taxes, stop offering services, or set flat fees for each individual resource. We also have private services like AirEvac, which provides life flight services by helicopter for a mere $45 a year in annual membership. It offsets costs for EMS and the patient.
Regardless, it seems like an issue that has long been affecting rural counties is finally making its way more metro.