Rob Fernandes was mad as hell and he wasn’t going to take it anymore.
The father of three home-schooled children objected to having to pay school taxes, arguing that it amounted to robbery because his family does not use the public education system. But he went to the Forks Township, Pa. tax collector, nonetheless, to pay $7,143.54 in taxes – only he did it with theatrical flair.
He paid in $1 bills, as people who accompanied him videotaped.
"We homeschool our kids, so we don’t even use the public school system, yet I’m being forced to pay all this money into a public school system that I don’t use, don’t want, don’t need,” he said, according to a video posted on YouTube. “And I don’t think that’s really fair, just or even ethical.”
“It would be the equivalent if McDonald’s were to force vegetarians to pay for their cheeseburgers," he said. "I’m a big proponent of education. Education can be provided more efficiently in a free market."
We homeschool our kids, so we don’t even use the public school system, yet I’m being forced to pay all this money into a public school system that I don’t use, don’t want, don’t need.
- Rob Fernandes, Forks Township resident
Fernandes, who is an IT manager, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, walked into the municipal building and took the money out in 71 stacks – each amounting to $100 – and added $43 and 54 cents, placing it all on a counter as the tax collector, Anne Bennett-Morse, looked on in shock and several times walked away, evidently to consult with co-workers about how to handle the rare event.
Fernandes is no stranger to taking to high-profile ways to express his displeasure with government.
For the last few years, he has spearheaded "Lemonade Freedom Day," in which residents open lemonade stands without permits.
"This is in response to the bureaucrats and law enforcers who are shutting down lemonade stands for not having permits or licenses," he wrote on www.lemonadefreedom.com.
Last month, Fernandes wrote about how Lemonade Freedom Day had been a success, despite a few moments of uncertainty.
"We received a visit from another Philadelphia Police Officer," he recounted. "This time it was a Sergeant. He informed us that they would not bother us. There would be no citations, no arrests. That was it. The day was a full success. Despite being threatened with arrest, we were able to successfully run an 'illegal' lemonade stand, without a permit in Philadelphia."
When he was at City Hall paying his tax bill, Bennett-Morse said that she would give him a printed acknowledgment of payment, but not one that indicated that it was paid in full because she could not count each dollar bill.
Fernandes took exception, and noted that the money the town was charging him was such a large amount that it was uncountable.
“They expect me to work for it, they expect other people to work hard for it,” he said, “but they can’t even count it in the place where they collect it.”
Bennett-Morse and Fernandes eventually walked to a bank so that the money could be counted and the father could get his “paid-in-full” receipt.
Fernandes, who was accompanied by his wife and three children, did leave something behind at the municipal building – a box of donuts, for anyone, he said, who was “inconvenienced” by his elaborate gesture to pay the tax bill.
Elizabeth Llorente can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on https://twitter.com/Liz_Llorente