Friday, September 28, 2007

Abolish Property Taxes: Reap The Whirlwind

I've heard it suggested that maybe it is time to replace the property tax with a sales tax, or something else. I haven't favored this because it would leave local governments powerless to control revenue. I don't want everything in the hands of the state because then I have to direct all of my ire to the legislature to lower taxes.

That said, Davis county government hasn't shown yet they are qualified to control spending either.

Now the Tax Foundation has sided with me on this.

Before I see property tax abolished, I'll vote the local bums out.

More Property Tax Increases

Legislators may soon require counties to increase their property taxes to increase funding for county health departments. This because federal dollars are getting reduced, or are tied to specific programs according to Dr. Gary House, of the Weber-Morgan County Health Department.

"At the federal level, we're seeing a shift in their funding priorities. We're getting money for things like bioterrorism."

I've heard this argument made before by the Davis County Health Department. They suggest the federal dollars are the reason we should increase funding. I get reimbursed for certain expenses by my employer, so should I be asking for a raise because of how I am paid?

I think that we should have funding for bioterrorism, and for things like pandemics. Is House suggesting otherwise? In my mind the county is perfectly situation to arrange the stockpile of vaccines in a way that the individual cannot. If bird-flu strikes my town, I can't be expected to have a personal supply of vaccine.

The Salt Lake Tribune implied in its reporting that it is the state lawmakers job to "control health spending." This could not be more wrong. How many of our recent property tax increases have come because of the legislature? How many because of the county commission, or school board? Part of the blame for this misconception lies with those who are asking for the mandatory tax increase, however.

Dr. David Blodgett, director of the Southwest Utah Public Health Department asked for a property tax increase, but if not given that, he suggested a tax on cigarettes which could be earmarked for anti-cigarette campaigns and treatment. Is anyone else catching the irony implicit in this suggestion? In fact, the better job the health department did, the worse their funding would get. It would be a completely self-destructive tax if the campaign to eliminate smoking were to succeed.

Clearly, the folks asking for this money haven't thought it through enough.

And, Davis county has already increased funding for the health department, and we can see the results of that increase this year. If the legislature steps in, we'd see another increase next year. This despite the fact that we have a $242 million surplus. Less money than last year, but more than enough to match the $30 million dollars in infrastructure spending that health departments need this year.

"We will have the money to fund the essentials," according to Representative Ron Bigelow.

The Deseret News is reporting that there are $200 million in unspent funds this year from state departments and colleges. From the article.

"It is alarming, some of these large carry-overs, especially two years in a row," said House Majority Leader Dave Clark, R-Santa Clara. "Why do we do this?"

Hat tip: Citizens For Tax

Friday, September 21, 2007

Property Taxes: On Rate Caps

The poll that is currently on the sidebar asks.

"The amount of revenue that the county is allowed to collect is limited by law, but municipalities are not limited. Should the tax revenue that cities are allowed to collect be limited by statute?"
On a closer inspection, I can't figure where I got this idea that municipalities have no cap on their revenue. I was sure that I'd read it in an article, but I can't find the source. I got five responses in favor of capping revenue that flows into city coffers, but my question is not factually based so those are useless results.

The fact is that there is a rate cap on certain things and not on others. For example, flood control has no limit, on the county level. The recreation(???) rate on the city level also has no cap.

Most taxing entities have caps in the code that limit the rate at which we can be taxed. Which ones do not?

More information is available at the state website.(pdf)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Hyperbole Of The Day: 'No Brainer'

"This is the biggest 'no brainer' in the history of the Earth."

--Steve Handy, spokesman for the Northern Utah Transportation Alliance on the proposed transit tax hike.
Setting aside the possibility of exaggeration, Is there anything about taxes, or tax increases that should be a 'no brainer'? This should raise a red flag about the proposed transit tax hike.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Vouchers: On Out-Of-State Money

I'm seeing a lot of anti-voucher ads on television. You might be asking, where is all this money coming from? You see, some months ago, criticisms of Parents for Choice were prolific about out-of-state money going into the organizations coffers.

Now, it is Utahn's for Public Education (anti-voucher) getting all of the out-of-state funds. (i.e. 1.5 million dollars from the National Education Association.)

Where are those critics now?

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Cities Not To Blame For County Tax Increase

Was your vote for local incumbents affected by the County tax increase?

Via The Standard Examiner

Calculation Error: Higher Assesments For Bountiful, NSL


"In that process, appraisers made some data-entry errors, Ivie said, and Bountiful's new growth rate was set at 8 percent - as seen in other parts of the county - rather than the city's actual 4 percent. "
Via SL Tribune

Monday, September 10, 2007

From The Comments: On Incrementalism

This comment from the Utah Taxpayer deserves more daylight than what it is currently getting in my comments section.

"The Davis County Clipper has almost always defended local governments on tax issues, and they are one of the biggest defenders in Utah of incrementalism in which "small" tax increases are consistently passed.

Regarding the 138% property tax increase of a couple of years ago that Koecher is trying to dismiss, the magnitude of the increase wasn't the only problem. The county wanted to impose a permanent tax increase to fund a one-time capital project (jail). Normally, counties issue voter-approved general obligation bonds for capital projects. Once the bond is paid off, the tax increase disappears. However, if the county had prevailed, they would have kept the tax increase even after the jail was paid off.

You can imagine what would happen if every school district, county, city, and special service district raised their taxes PERMANENTLY every time they built or expanded a new building.

Moreover, the county wanted to raise taxes to cover the operation of jail TWO years before the jail opened.

In his role of defending Davis County elected officials, Koecher is hoping that over time Davis County residents will have forgotten what happened."

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Koecher To Stephenson: Comments Made Years Ago Unfair

Rolf Koecher has an interesting take on what is an appropriate tax increase.

He begins by saying that he was "personally upset" with the Utah Taxpayers Association President, Howard Stevenson, for targeting Davis County some years ago with a criticism of our tax increases.

Stephenson said that our elected officials were "out of control" Koecher says,

"It wasn’t out of control then, and his statement was vastly unfair.
This year, however, I wouldn’t be as quick to challenge him if he made the same comments." (italics mine)
Of course, Stephenson, in 2003, was talking about the attempt made to increase our taxes by 138 percent.


Koecher goes on to say that some taxes are fair by virtue of being small. The corollary is that large taxes would be unfair. Koecher says he can see why residents would think taxes to be unfair in the last two years, but, somehow he doesn't see the increase of 138 percent as a problem. In fact, he doesn't even acknowledge that Stephenson was talking about a huge tax hike in 2003 when he made his comment.

Koecher lets us know that he favors the RAP tax because it would be "so small".

Here is what Mike Jerman, also of the Utah Taxpayers association, has to say about "small" tax increases.
Mike Jerman, vice president of the Utah Taxpayers Association, said
the gamut of new taxes ranging from the mosquito abatement tax in
Salt Lake City to the fire district tax in Park City represent a growing
Utah trend toward hitting residents with lots of small fees and taxes.
The smaller taxes, he said, are easier to pass because they meet less
opposition from residents than do single, large taxes.
Jerman equated the tax levying approach to the old boiling a frog
analogy: Throw a frog into a pot of boiling water, it will jump out. Put a
frog in a pot of cold water and bring the heat up slowly, "the frog
doesn't realize it's being boiled," he said.
The trouble with that method, Jerman added, is that people notice the
heat of being nickeled and dimed eventually.

In the interest of full disclosure, Koecher hasn't said a single nice thing about me, and I have both opposed and agreed with him on separate occasions.

Davis Candidates Running For Local Office

Via the Clipper

Friday, September 07, 2007

Announcing: Special Tax Meeting

Meeting on taxes
September 11th at 7:00 PM
Bountiful library
725 S. Main St

Organizer: Tatiana Milne
Community tax meeting next Tuesday