PHOENIX — After a pair of military veterans outlined their monthly budget woes and ailing health, City Council members backed away from a proposed $20-25 transient tax on RV dwellers.
Council members were set to consider the fee, a user tax of sorts to help pay for general fund services such as police and streets.
Since RV park dwellers do not pay the individual water bills that mobile home park residents pay, the city had considered the $20-25 tax to generate revenue and cover expenses.
Arriving with Holiday RV Park owner Joyce Parducci, wife of former mayor Larry Parducci, retirees Gary Denzer and Ken Smith told the council of the stress created by the potential for an additional bill each month when meals and medicine are too often in question.
Denzer, a Phoenix native and retired Air Force major, stood with the aid of a cane and assured the council that he was stretching every penny in his limited monthly income.
"When I tell you what my bills are each month, you're going to shake your head and say, 'How does he survive?' " Denzer told the council.
"When I pay all my bills, I have $100 left over to go out and eat and buy fuel. I can't take a trip. I don't have enough money. I can't afford it."
Denzer said he would prefer to "get out of my fifth wheel to have people around me to socialize and spend the rest of my days with," but that finances would not allow that.
"If you consider this fee fair, then I guess I don't understand what you people are all about," Denzer said.
Smith echoed similar concerns. His voice raspy from emphysema and asthma, the retiree apologized for "having to stop and get a breath."
"I'm on Social Security and it doesn't give me much for bills or food for the month so it's pretty rough to make ends meet. I am lucky enough to get one meal a day from the food program," said Smith.
"If you raise my fees, it's going to make it that much harder on me ... . I'm asking you to keep the prices down and there are a lot of other people in the park in the same condition I'm in, where an extra 20 or 25 dollars a month will mean the difference between their meal for the day and not getting it."
Before Monday's discussion, City Manager Steve Dahl told the council he could find no other cities in the region with a similar fee. Mayor Jeff Bellah said the discussion should take place despite being "new ground."
"One of the things I really like about Phoenix right now is we are just about one of the only cities that I can find that really don't have user fees — other than our street user fee," he noted.
Bellah noted that RV residents were not the only city residents faced with hard times.
Bellah and council President Bruce Sophie both voiced concerns about the need to generate revenues in one way or another.
Bellah told the council, "The only time we seem to have discussion about whether people can afford it is when it's a new cost. I haven't heard anybody show concern for the people who live across the high school in those apartments that don't look to me like they have any money. So what I'm asking is, is this something we want to find out more about or is this not something we need to look at?"
When council members Karen Jones, Carolyn Bartell and Terry Helfrich declined to comment on the idea, Bellah said, "I will remind you when you want to put user fees on the rest of the town that we had this discussion."
Parducci, who has owned Holiday RV for 27 years, was grateful for "the council's willingness to listen."
"I was so elated and so relieved and really proud of the council that they really listened," she said.
"I'm sure they'll find revenue in other places but I thought they were very compassionate towards my residents at the park. They feel like they were able to make a difference. It shows how important it is to show up and to be visible and tell them how you feel. Otherwise, I guess you can't complain."
Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.