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FD council should approve franchise fee plan

It will improve public safety, cut property taxes and support quality of life

Fort Dodge now has a chance to get more police officers, a slightly lower property tax rate and some extra money for quality of life programs.

It is a chance that the City Council must seize.

None of that — the additional officers, the lower levy rate or the money for quality of life — is free. A franchise fee added to the gas and electric bills of MidAmerican Energy customers would generate the $2.4 million annually to make it all possible.

We realize that no one wants to pay more in monthly bills. But in this instance, the benefits of doing so will far outweigh the comparatively low cost of the franchise fee.

The fee would cost the typical residential customer about $10 a month. And when the franchise fee is added to the utility bills, the 1 percent local option sales tax will be removed.

For homeowners, that would result in a net increase of $3.68 a month on their electric bills and $3.18 on their gas bills.

That $3.18 net increase on the gas bills is about the cost of a 20-ounce bottle of soda at a convenience store. And how many of those do we all buy every month?

Few people have any hesitation about buying those bottles of soda. We don’t think they should have any hesitation about spending a similar amount once a month to get a safer city, lower property taxes and some money for extras that make Fort Dodge a nice place to live.

Adding eight officers to the 40-member police force is the most prominent thing the franchise fee revenue would allow. We need those officers.

Fort Dodge has a crime problem. Getting more cops on the beat will go a long way to address that problem. With more cops on the beat it will be harder for the bad guys to do something illegal, and if they manage to do something they’ll get caught faster. In fact, with more officers available, the police will be taking proactive steps to thwart crime instead of just going from one call for service to another.

Citizens and elected officials have wanted to add more officers for years. This franchise fee proposal will finally make it happen.

The franchise fee includes some other benefits.

The city’s property tax levy rate is divided into different components that pay for different things. One of those components generates the money to pay off the city’s general obligation bond debt. The current proposal calls for taking some of the franchise fee money and earmarking it to pay off that debt. If that is done, the property tax levy for debt service will be cut by $1 per $1,000 of taxable value.

Finally, some of the franchise fee revenue will be used to support things like the Karl King Municipal Band and Citizens Central, things that are vital to the quality of life in this community. Some of the revenue would also help to pay for road work, offsetting the loss of the 1 percent local option sales tax once that is removed from the utility bills.

More police officers, lower property tax rates and money for quality of life are all part of the franchise fee proposal. We think it is a good deal. We urge the City Council to approve it promptly.

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