Friday, July 09, 2010

Oh, Really, Mr. Henken? Do PropTaxes HAVE To Go Up?

Here's the popular mythology:

One problem, Henken said, is that as the economy slumps, the need for government services tends to rise,

(Found in this story describing proptax rate increases.)

"...need for Gummint services tends to rise..."

Which ones, Mr. Henken?

Does local road-maintenance rise? Fire responses? Cop-shop activity? Library services? Common Council meetings? Garbage collection? K-12 education? Licensing and Inspections?

Yes, a FEW local Gummint services are in more demand: AFDC comes to mind immediately, and perhaps general welfare-department activity.

But most are State or Fed functions: UC, Heating Assistance, Job-Training, Medicaid...

Perhaps Mr. Henken's organization should publish a study which goes beyond sound-bite "truisms" and shows, in absolute AND in percentage terms, how many "recession-driven" County, Municipality, and School Board expenses rise.

That would be helpful, no?


Steve Cavanaugh said...

While I'm always suspicious of claims of the need for gov't, my own experience is that many of the cited local gov't services do get called on more in a bad economy:

Does local road-maintenance rise? No

Fire responses? In Winter? Sure, people will heat with all kinds of crazy things when they can't get oil (the main heat source here in the NE). We always see more fires here in winter than summer, and often because of electric heaters.

Cop-shop activity?

Library services? Well, actually, yes. My wife (a librarian) reports a huge increase in use of the library computers; no, not all are for looking for work, but there are a lot of resumes typed at the local library and gets a workout too.

Common Council meetings? Not to my knowledge

Garbage collection? Sure enough. Where do you think all the stuff put out on the sidewalk from evictions goes. Not to mention all the folks fleeing apartments they can no longer afford (granted, our SVDP boxes get filled with trash too, which we haul off on our own).

K-12 education? Actually, 9-12 probably do see more students staying in school when there's no work to be had. But that's a good thing.

Licensing and Inspections? Except for new food pantries, probably not ; )

Dad29 said...


But increased utilization of fixed assets like libraries does NOT add substantial cost, if any at all.

Increased tonnage of garbage does add cost--but how much? Six percent? Two percent? 1/10th of 1 percent?

The point is that those cost increases (if any, really) are VERY marginal.

Not enough to justify 5, 6, or 7% increases in proptax.

Steve Cavanaugh said...

Agreed, the costs are not that high, and certainly don't justify the large proptax increases that are sometimes requested.

Of course, here in Massachusetts, we did manage to get proposition 2 1/2 passed, so that property rate hikes of more than 2.5% have to be approved by the voters. This has been in place for several years now.

It does make local funding difficult, because we in New England rely heavily on property tax to fund schools, which are all run at the town level, unlike many areas of the U.S. which operate on a county level.

Dad29 said...

Here the school systems are generally taxed on municipality-level (generally).

And there are no controls over proptax increases, nor State income-tax increases.

You see why one asks questions...