Local levee tax a painful reality that must be considered

The cost for recertifying the levee that protects Williamsport and surrounding communities is $13.6 million.

And it’s climbing.

There is no getting around the necessity of the levee.

And there is no getting around the requirements for recertification. They must be met or flood insurance for local property owners will become unaffordable and a severe impingement on the real estate market.

Anyone who follows local governments and their annual budget talks knows that they all have one thing in common – they don’t have money sitting in some residual account to cover the municipal obligations that come with $13.6 million.

So when city, county, state and federal lawmakers sat down recently to brainstorm on ways to pay the cost of the recertification, something quite predictable happened.

They talked about the possibility of a levee tax or a surcharge to perpetually pay for the 10-year certification and future ones.

We understand the sighs of resignation and despair that prompts.

We understand the frustrations of a public official such as Lycoming County Commissioner Tony Mussare, who pointed out a food assistance card can be used to purchase potato chips but taxpayers have to foot most of the bill for a flood levee recertification.

He was pointing out the lack of logic behind some of the decisions of elected officials.

In the levee certification dilemma, elected officials at all levels should examine all funding possibilities. We already know that property owners in all the municipalities can’t afford much more in the way of real estate taxes.

We also know that a levee tax on all adult residents of the city and neighboring municipalities would substantially broaden the burden, thus keeping the bill from being too large.

We always feel ratepayers and taxpayers are being bilked when new fees and higher taxes are discussed because we are wary that it is a hedge against the hard work of stretching every possible dollar out of a publicly funded budget.

That said, a levee tax clearly should be among the options discussed to pay for the flood levee recertification.