the T word

Brent Finnegan -- April 11th, 2007

With so much discussion (and in many cases, outrage) over state taxes in the Virginia blogosphere, it seems odd that there hasn’t been much talk recently about local taxes. In fact, yesterday the DNR ran a story under the headline “Public Quiet on Proposed Budget.”

Today there are (at least) two more stories in the DNR about the increasing city budget and a “smaller reduction in tax rate.” TV3 reports that “no one spoke about the tax increase at the public hearing. The reason? Harrisonburg resident JC Depoy says the tax increases in a growing city like Harrisonburg are inevitable,” and adds that Harrisonburg has the second lowest tax rate in the state.

Since most of this money is coming from real estate taxes, and I’m a renter, not a property owner, this doesn’t have as much of an impact on my bank account. Maybe I don’t even really care. So I’ll ask the owners out there: do you care? Are local tax rates reasonable and justifiable?

7 Responses to “the T word”

  1. David says:

    Taxes are very reasonable, the reassessments are a joke (AMAZINGLY MY HOUSE IS WORTH $79k MORE THAN TWO YEARS AGO, of course I can only get that money if I were to sell my home for that figure). But in answer to your question, I believe the tax rates themselves to be reasonable. I also should point out that the taxes that affect your landlord will directly affect what they charge you in rent.

    The nice thing about our taxes and our Council is that they seem to take a disciplined approach to limiting spending while still maintaining or funding the projects like streetscape renovations that they have committed to in years past. Last night at Council was a good example of that.

    Anyone witness the meeting that also noticed a sincere difference between what went down and what was reported, specifically Mr. Pace’s amendment and his wording vs the paper’s?

  2. finnegan says:

    Good point about the rent. Mine hasn’t gone up *yet*

    What do you mean about Pace’s amendment? I wasn’t there.

  3. TM says:

    Guess that’s why my rent is going up about $75 next lease.

  4. JGFitzgerald says:

    As one of the council members pointed out in the DNR, people usually react only when they get the bill. And they react less if they can see, touch and hear what they’re paying for: teachers, firemen, police officers, water, trash pickup — all the tangible benefits of local government.

    That’s one reason for trying to tie state tax hikes to specific items such as transportation — to create the idea that people get what they pay for. Obviously not that simple, but when a man can get elected governor on a three-word slogan that lasts less than 10 years, simplicity is attractive even to those in the GA, or blogosphere, who know better.

    H’burg tax rates aren’t too high. The real issues about local government are more complex than that. Is a cigarette tax a fair one, or definitively regressive? Is the city over-taxing its citizens if its reserve fund is kept larger than the minimum required to maintain its bond rating? Should a city buy and hold land without a clear and stated use in mind?

    Governments at all levels get away with a lot because of the questions most people don’t even know to ask. But the tax rates are low, the water’s clean and the buses run on time.

  5. JGFitzgerald says:

    David,

    It’s usually a safe bet to inflate the projections a little. We increased the school budget (or, more accurately, lessened the amount of the city manager’s proposed cut) by 600k that way in 2001 and got away with it. That’s a council function, though. Staff budget-makers have to be more cautious, so that their elected bosses will have money to give to people throughout the year. Giving money to people is half the fun of being a council member.

    I don’t remember what the other half is.

  6. David Miller says:

    If you ever figure out that other half, let me know. People are always joking that I should run for council, I simply laugh and walk away!

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