2008-05-28

What Would Athenians Due If Property Taxes Were REALLY Excessive?

Reading all of the letters to the editor from people crying foul over the proposed property tax increase leaves me scratching my head. I do not know whether to laugh or cry at what people are saying. Sure, there are programs in the Athens-Clarke County government that may be questionable to people. But I do not think I have ever seen any waste or fluff in the government offices I have dealt with over the years, and the employees are greatly underpaid compared to market worth and the state of the current economy.

I wonder what people of this area would do if they had to pay real property taxes. Yes, the taxes paid by homeowners in places like Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, etc. I remember visiting my hometown (Binghamton, NY) back in the early 1990's. A house was for sale on my street for $100,000, yet the property tax was $6,000. That is real. That is costly.

My uncle, who lived on Long Island, had wanted to retire from his job, but he couldn't. Cutbacks at Grumman Corporation meant that he was unable to sell his home. So he had to keep working just to pay his property taxes.

Yes, we need to be vigilant in watching how our government is spending our money. I would rather see a property tax increase than a never ending SPLOST. At least I can deduct the property taxes on my federal return. With SPLOST, I am paying a sales tax on special interest projects that get passed in questionable ways. I am specifically thining about the school SPLOSTs which get put up for vote on non-election days.

Frankly, it is the school district which needs a lot more oversight in how they are spending our money. They waste money by having school buses pick up and drop off at every students house instead of having designated bus stops. The argument I hear is that they have to because there are no sidewalks. We did not have sidewalks where I grew up either, yet we had 1 designated bus stop that served a 20 block area. Sorry, but this has long been one of my soapbox issues here in town, especially when getting stuck behind buses stopiing every two houses.

So let's put our focus on areas that can and should be managed better and stop whining about peorty taxes that are a relative bargain compared to other parts of the United States, and of Georgia.

2 comments:

Adrian said...

It is unhelpful to compare our taxes to other cities and states because we don't have a "real" economy paying "real" wages in this town.

Winfield J. Abbe said...

Mr. Byrne: Have you ever considered how unfair the property tax system is? You are comparing one unfair system in Athens to another unfair system in New York. America was formed over 2 centuries ago because of unfairness in taxation. The Boston Tea Party was a result of unfairness in taxation. Yet, here we are over 2 centuries later and our "representatives" of both political parties, have "voted" us back to virtually where we started. Why should a relative minority (the property owners) be forced to pay the costs of everyone living in an area? Some of these property owners do not even live in the area and thus cannot even vote. Also, businesses and corporations cannot vote but often pay enormous property taxes. Right here in Athens there is a valuable property on Newton Bridge Rd. (the old Westclox plant) which has been idle for years, possibly more than 10 years. But whoever owns that plant is forced to pay many thousands or tens of thousands of dollars of tax for the operations of Athens government, including the schools which those owners likely do not even use, but many citizens of Athens use but pay virtually nothing for. What happened to the idea of "equality" in taxation, where every occupant of a jurisdiction pays his fair share of the costs of government? What would be so wrong with sending a bill to every adult occupant and expect them to pay their fair share? Here is a simple example with an assumed small population to illustrate the gross unfairness of the property tax:
Let's try to simplify the smoke and mirrors about government costs in Athens. Who pays for the operation of ACC government? Property owners that is who. Suppose instead of a city with a population of about 100,000 but a much smaller number of property owners, suppose the population of Athens was say 10 and the total operating budget of Athens were say $25,000 including the school budget. Suppose there were 4 property owners who owned all the property in Athens, one was a business, one an industrial plant, out of business for many years, whose owner lived out of the county, one a homeowner and one a landlord. In other words, there are 4 property owners, 3 of whom live in Athens and 1 does not, but all of them must pay the full $25,000 budget for the county. About 80 percent of the budget is paid by the business owner and industrial owner since their property is valued very high on the tax rolls. Each of them pay say $10,000 of the tax and recall that one does not even live in Athens and has no, zero revenue from his long closed plant. The other two owners each pay a much smaller amount of $2,500 each for a total of $25,000.
Only one of the property owners has a child in school. Of the 10 people who live in Athens, 3 are property owners, 2 are a couple with 3 children, 2 are illegal immigrants with 6 children, one is a (single mom) drug addict with 5 children and another is a homeless with 4 children. Note that those with all the children and use the expensive schools, pay virtually none of the costs of those schools. In fact, one of the property owners who lives out of town is forced to pay part of their costs for them. The property owners are also forced to pay the high costs of the leisure services for the benefit of the people with children of others since most of them do not have children. People with children are going to use the public emergency room more since most of them will not have any insurance and will make use of the indigent fund provided and forced from the property tax owners. The business and industrial plant owners would be too busy to use the public bus but they must provide huge amounts of its cost since the fares are minimal. But some of the other people don't even have service like the homeowner and landlord who happen to live where no service is provided. Do you get the picture? The 4 property owners, one of whom does not even live in Athens are paying the costs for all the 10 who do, and 7 of the 10 pay nothing at all, but use most of the services! This is why the dictum of Karl Marx applies to this situation: "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs." Karl Marx was a writer of the Communist philosophy. On the other hand, suppose all 10 people living and using the many services in Athens had to pay their fair share of the operating costs. What would that share be? Simply divide the budget of $25,000 by 10 and voila, each would pay the same amount of $2,500 each. In fact, one could argue those with children should pay more since they use the expensive schools and bus and health services and likely do not have any health insurance. I think you get the picture of the gross unfairness in the existing property tax system in Athens for many, many decades now. Funny, isn't it, despite the American Revolution over 2 centuries ago and the Boston Tea Party, the best our "elected representatives" could do was to copy the Communist philosophy of Karl Marx? By the way Georgia has a section in its Constitution that requires everyone be treated equally under the law, but this section is routinely disregarded every day in Georgia. There is another point: When occupants do not have to pay their fair share of the costs of government, they don't care about government and likely don't vote. This is basically why we have minority rule almost everywhere in the U.S. Most "elected" officials at any level are not even elected by a majority of the registered voters are they since a majority of the registered voters rarely even show up at the polls. Why should they? Someone else (the property owners) is, as a group, forced, under the real threat of confiscation of their hard earned property, to pay their costs of public services for them!