Thursday, August 10, 2006

Now It's Official: Twenty Percent Tax Increase

This is one thing service on the City Council does to people: It turns them from people who protest tax increases into people who raise taxes.

At least, that's the idea folks had at Tuesday's hearing, before the vote. (The Daily Herald thrilled to report the evening's sensationalism; nevertheless, the article does gives a complete picture of the evening. )

In truth, I do not feel this vote has compromised my integrity in any way. The way I see it, I have progressed from one who speaks on behalf of families and neighborhoods needing better parks, sidewalks, etc., to one who has the means to provide them.

The Herald said, "City Council members unanimously approved the increase after a public hearing where no one spoke in favor of the increase and many derided the idea." Actually, nobody spoke UP in favor of the idea. But several came to me afterwards indicating their support. I also have several emails to the same effect.

Tax increases will never go unprotested, and this is right. We do not want to give our governments carte blanche. But my read of the families of American Fork, based on years of activism, one very intense political campaign, and now months of close study, is that they want and need the basic services this increase will provide: safe routes to school; road maintenance; police, fire, and ambulance protection.


FIRST: The Council voted to reduce the increase yet again. First it was fifty percent, then thirty-five. The final vote set the tax increase at twenty percent above last year's rate. The reason is that valuations came out just the week prior to the vote, and in many parts of town, the increases were prohibitively high. Truth in Taxation -- as explained in a previous post -- does hold taxpayers harmless against the appreciation of their home values, but this only works in the aggregate. In the up-close- and-personal, many families were hit with punishing tax increases, so we did all we could to reduce the blow. I only fear that we went too far. The cut was made possible by reducing the "fund balance," which is the reserve fund for meeting emergencies and other unforeseen needs. High winds in Provo the other week wiped out Provo City's emergency reserves. I would have felt much safer keeping the fund balance intact.

SECOND: The Herald article said that Council members "struggled to answer" residents' questions. This suggests that the Council did not have answers; in reality, the problem was the difficulty of explaining governmental regulations clearly in the fifteen seconds an angry resident allows before he interrupts. For all who left the evening befuddled about Truth in Taxation, help has arrived. My husband, the closet math professor, has posted an elegant explanation of the law on his blog. You'll find it clear, concise, and helpful -- but you won't be able to reduce it to a fifteen-second sound bite.


Blogger David Rodeback said...

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10:18 AM  

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