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Do people routinely donate money to a public service like that?

Yes, at least in my small town. I live in a town of about 5000 people, and our taxes have to fund quite a lot, but the vast majority of our money goes to education which is a top priority for the town. Other priorities in this town is green space (we buy lots of land for conservation), the library, and our senior citizens.

We have several "Friends of" groups that help to raise money for various things including the library, the conservation folks, and even our historical society.

So yes, people do routinely donate money to public services, and there are even entire organizations dedicated to encouraging that.

I'm sure it is not the same everywhere, but it is true where I live.
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