What: Public Hearing on the Proposed Ordinance for Motor Vehicle Service Fee or "crash tax."
Where: St. Andrew Public Service District, 1775 Ashley River Road, Charleston
When: 5:45 p.m. Monday
No one showed up in March when the St. Andrews Public Service District was ready to discuss a controversial proposed new fee, but citizens will get another chance to comment Monday.
The commission will hold a public hearing before their regular meeting to discuss the proposed ordinance for a Motor Vehicle Service Fee, also known as a "crash tax." They could vote on the fee at the meeting after the hearing, said district manager Christie Holderness.
The ordinance would allow St. Andrews to charge for responding to motor vehicle accidents. The cost is estimated to range from a few hundred dollars to more than a thousand.
The move is necessary because the district's call volume has increased from fewer than 1,000 calls in 2009 to almost 5,300 in 2013 due to a mutual-aid agreement with Charleston, North Charleston, James Island and St. John's Fire District. In 2012 the departments entered into a formal agreement that would call for them to be simultaneously dispatched to help with fires and other emergencies.
Insurance industry representatives said such a fee typically isn't covered under an auto policy.
"There may not be coverage for accident response, unless the expense can be considered property damage or bodily injury," said Russ Dubisky, executive director of the S.C. Insurance News Service. "It cannot be assumed that all of these costs will be borne by insurers."
The Property Casualty Insurers Association of America called the ordinance "misguided" and "a form of double taxation" because the services are already funded through property and other local taxes.
"With tight budgets, it's understandable that local officials are looking for ways to increase revenue, but charging an additional fee for emergency services following an accident is not the answer," said Oyango Snell, Property Casualty Insurer's regional manager. "Several nearby states have laws in place to stop local governments from charging accident response fees because it's unfair to the consumer and sends the message to visitors they are not welcome. Additionally, the fee could ultimately force the cost of insurance to increase. There is some concern that charging nonresidents also could result in retaliatory fees from neighboring governments.
"As local government examines this issue we hope they will realize the crash tax just adds insult to injury by victimizing drivers twice: once by being in an unfortunate accident and then getting hit again with a fee," Snell said.
More than two dozen jurisdictions or departments in the state already have the fee in place. Locally, Dorchester County has considered the fee and in February sent the issue to committee. It is not on agendas for this week's meetings.
St. Andrews has discussed the proposed ordinance since August. It was deferred in January for legal advice and the commission did not meet in February. In March, although no one showed up to speak at the meeting, the commission tabled the issue.
"We'd like to have people show up and give us their opinion," commission chairman Charlie Ledford said at the time. "Nobody showed up."
Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713 or @brindge on Twitter.
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