Saturday, October 31, 2009

End Property Taxes, Save a Tree...

I subscribe to 3 newspapers. 2 daily and 1 weekly. I know it's not the most environmentally friendly way keeping abreast of things, but I still enjoy leafing through the pages more than surfing the web, and besides, I can't make paper hats for the grand kids out of a computer, and you sure can't roll up a computer to swat a fly.

Apparently the availability of news on the internet is having a negative effect on the printed version of newspapers. A variation on the old "why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free" theory, I suppose.

I have noticed the papers getting thinner over the years, mostly due to less advertisements it seems, although occasionally a flurry of activity or ads will thicken things back up for a day or two.

On Friday, the Courier-Times seemed a little heftier than usual when I pulled it out of the box. The Courier-Times is the daily paper that comes out of New Castle, which is the seat of Henry County. Upon opening the paper, I found that its extra weight was due in part to 6 full pages of property tax sale listings. Henry County claims 46,947 residents. It just listed about 1000 properties going to auction for non-payment of property taxes.

A couple of weeks ago This Story told how some businesses in New Castle had seen their property taxes increase over 500% in the last 4 years, the result of changes in the way property is assessed.

That's the problem with the push to put the 1%, 2%, or 3% cap on property taxes. The cap will be on the assessed value of the property, and as farmers and business owners are starting to find out, the method of figuring assessed value is subject to some very arbitrary changes and opinions from the state. Don't be surprised if over the next few years, "replacement cost" works its way into the formula for assessing the value of homes.

As hard as they might try, there is no way politicians can make property taxes fair. No one should lose their home, farm or business to the tax man simply because the government raises their taxes on that property. We can do a lot better with a sales tax and user fees that distribute the cost of funding legitimate and necessary government to all citizens.

And by keeping a closer eye on what is legitimate and necessary.

I'm reminded of that every time I pick up a newspaper that is thicker than it needs to be.

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