They don't mind the fire-protection costs. They don't mind the flood-control costs. They don't mind paying for handicapped children's services or regional parks, or the air pollution control district. When printer John Bennett and his wife Lucille, who voted for the Proposition B tax limitation initiative, studied their itemized tax bill a few days ago, in fact, they found most of the categories to be worthwhile and not outrageously expensive services.

But the whole bill is just too high.

From a more affluent suburb, "We moved over here thinking this was what we could afford." Mrs. Bennett said. "And it was. But the cost-of-living has just gone sky high on us. Often I've thought about writing, and saying, what is a middle-class person supposed to do about this?"

Welfare and public health are everybody's responsibility, they believe. There may be unqualified people receiving public assistance, and that needs fixing, but the Bennetts think it would be wrong either to reduce benefits or to charge the poor for vital services they now receive free. "There's some people that just absolutely can't afford it." Bennett said, "and I think they definitely should have it."

But that does not mean the public must pay for adult classes, and so many recreation workers, and the other government-sponsored frills whose aim is just making life a little nicer. Those are fine programs, Mrs. Bennett said, but people should take care of them on their own, through volunteering and community effort.

"I think we take a little bit of people's incentive away from them when we give them things," Mrs. Bennett said. "I think people have just had everything done for them so long that they haven't had to do anything themselves."

What irks John Bennett most - he winces when the dollar figure is read to him - is the cost of the school system. As administrators made budget cuts. "We heard that in one school they canceled eight electric pianos." he said, sounding pained. "That's that."

The Bennetts have lived in Martiner for 11 years, and their four children, only one of whom still lives at home, all attended schools in what the Bennetts see as one big collection of fine furniture and special programs - "and our children are graduating." said Mrs. Bennett angrily, "without learnings to read and write and do math."

It seems to them that teachers make a great deal of money, receive better benefits than most people, spend two months off in the summer, and cling to their jobs even after they have lost their efficiency - something less likely to happen, said John Bennett, in private industry.

And though he can point to costs here and there that seem all wrong, the public employe issue is John Bennett's main complaint. "In private industry when there's a stack period there's a layoff," he said. "In county, or city, or state, there is no layoff, and we're continuing to pay for it."

He remembered when he was a shop foreman, making $13,000 a year, with a medical plan that covered only 80 percent. "Maybe I worked too cheap," he said. "I know I worked too cheap. But jeez, I think some flunky kid running a small duplicator at the city was making as much money as I was running the whole shop."

Cynthia Gorney