Why do owners of a septic tank or a septic system have to pay taxes or fees? They receive almost no services in return, a fact that has to drive these owners crazy.
Typically, when people pay taxes or service fees, whether it is a snow removal fee, garbage fee, water or sewer bill or a general real estate or income tax, they expect some service to be performed on their behalf. It does not matter if the service or action is ridiculously small in comparison to the fee or tax they pay; they do expect the government do something.
Septic tank and septic system owners that have to pay fees and taxes, however, get almost nothing in return for the taxes and fees they pay. This is because septic tank and septic system owners pay one hundred percent of the costs and expenses required to keep these assets performing efficiently. For example, if the septic tank becomes full of solids, they pay to have it pumped out – labor, hauling and disposal. If tree roots clog the pipes, they pay to have the lawn dug up and the roots removed. If the septic system fails, they pay to have it replaced, including landscaping and costs associated with an alternative waste disposal source. No tax payer or government assistance is provided. In fact, the government many times steps in and mandates a more expensive septic system be installed than the original one.
Many local governments make the case for septic tank and septic system fees and taxes when they cite the costs of monitoring water quality. As stated in prior blogs, some of these expenses are legitimate, especially if recreational or drinking water supplies are at risk. Comprehensive water sampling and testing can be expensive, depending on the size of the water table to be monitored. Some type of nominal fee or tax to cover these costs is reasonable to expect. The costs that eventually become unreasonable to expect are the costs associated with the record keeping of these tests and septic systems, in general. More on this topic later.
Another case for fees and taxes is made to pay for administrative costs of record keeping. Almost every county has a bureaucracy in place to maintain records of what property has a septic tank, when it was installed and, in the case of some states, when it was last pumped. Some people may question why the state or county needs to monitor when and how often people get their septic tank pumped. Is it not in the best interest of the homeowner to keep the solid level in the septic tank within a workable depth so the system functions properly? When a tank gets too full, eventually septic tank problems crop up that could include backups into the house. Who wants that to happen? All things considered, homeowners with septic tanks do not need someone to tell them to get their septic tank pumped.
In many counties, the database or records for which property contains a septic tank is separate from the database containing property tax records. There is no reason for this as many of the data fields are duplicated in both data bases. Inevitable, the databases become out of synch with one another and errors abound. Regardless of how many errors, taxpayers pay for the maintenance of both databases.
The reality is that septic tank and septic system owners have to pay fees and taxes regardless of how legitimate or specious the reasons are and despite the fact that they pay one hundred percent of the maintenance and operating costs. This seems crazy and, I am sure, greatly frustrates owners of septic tanks and septic systems who pay fees and taxes.