Thursday, December 27, 2007
Property tax fix: Use computers to keep values in step with market
Article Last Updated: 12/26/2007 07:22:59 PM MST
Lawmakers are hot to reform property taxes in the Legislature early next year. But if cooler heads prevail, which we hope they will, legislators will confine themselves to technical adjustments that won't risk creating big new inequities in an attempt to fix isolated problems. One worthwhile technical reform is embodied in House Bill 54. It would instruct assessors in the state's 10 most populous counties to use a computer-assisted mass appraisal system to update all real estate values every year. Salt Lake County already employs such a system to keep assessed values in step with the market, and as a result, protests arising from rapid real estate inflation have not exceeded the norm of about 2.5 percent.
That has not been the case in pockets of other counties. Angry property owners in Bountiful (Davis County) and Ogden Valley (Weber County) are spearheading a tax protest movement.
Utah's system is designed to keep government revenues stable. As real estate values go up, the certified tax rate goes down. The two exceptions that cause higher tax receipts are additions to the tax base caused by growth, such as new housing or property improvements, or tax rate increases approved by local governments and school districts. Assessors are required to update property values annually based on a review of current market data. They also are required to complete a detailed review of property characteristics for each property at least once every five years.
Salt Lake County began employing computer systems more than a decade ago to track real estate sales prices and adjust values accordingly. Keeping assessed values abreast of the market helps to spare taxpayers sticker shock during periods of high inflation.
No tax system yet devised can deliver perfect equity. Within a given county, market values in some areas will rise or fall more rapidly than in others, and a single certified tax rate cannot perfectly compensate for those disparities. But better application of better data certainly can help.
This will come at a price, of course. Counties that do not already employ those systems will incur additional costs to create greater tax equity. Before legislators can evaluate HB54, those costs will have to be estimated.
We suspect, however, that most property owners would consider that money well spent.
And Oh brothern are you all in for a big surprise come next August. Unless someone someplace wakes up and gets a clue...
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Subject: HB 54 Annual Market Value Assessments
Representative Harper and Senator Neiderhauser,
Ratings of Property Tax Proposals
1. Annual Market Value Assessments, (Rep. Harper, Sen. Neiderhauser), amends TNT requiring a mandatory cyclical (yearly) appraisal using mass uniform computer assisted system to value real property. Counties of the first class by Jan. '09, second class by Jan. '10, and third class Jan '11. It is to be jointly administered by the State Tax Commission and Counties. Rating: Worst, because it does what Weber Co. and some other counties have already been doing to us by "mass reassessments", using computer software. The original proposal presented had initial software purchase cost of about $2 Million, plus another $10,000,000 a year to keep it updated or as a user fee. This proposal to use expensive software will just compound the many previous errors already in the tax assessor's database causing a nightmare for the entire State. And at great additional costs on top of the hundreds of millions we already are pouring into County Assessor's offices (29 of them) plus the State Tax Commission. It compounds the disease of current/fair market value by magnifying disparate taxation using contentious software as yet another layer to Multiple Listing Services (MLS) software already contentious and fraught with errors. Had either of you bothered to actually look at the results of computer assisted or mass reassessments you would have not sponsored this proposition. No one in their right mind would...
Very disappointed with your sponsorship of this non solution which will wreck havoc on the citizens of major population centers in Utah.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
After responding to Marc Goldstone's message below, it occurred to me that simply sharing it with you all would help with coordination and understanding of where I truly believe we are headed. Simply marching on the Governor's mansion, given his recent near total lack of comprehension of our collective plight, may well not be near enough to insist upon and "demand" the taxation reforms we want. Reform not relief. Especially not tokenism relief so small it is an insult.
Marc Goldstone is the Arizonia Tax Revolt Chair. California and other State's interested groups are also being contacted, as well as our own coalition group leader members and selected members of our legislature. If you agree or disagree...as usual, please let me know your thoughts and opinions. I do not want to over step. D-Bell
As Marc says "D-Bell's group" is intrigued with the concept. And possibly - very likely ultimately the entire Utah Coalition from Washington County in the South to Cache County in the North will become very intrigued with the notion of playing "hardball" with Utah legislators.
For the past week, news outlets announce county budget increases based upon tax increase upon tax increase for 2008, as the year comes to a close. Add to that announcements of utility rate hikes from Rocky Mountain Power and Questar Gas utilities, impending UTA sales tax increases without end dates for Davis and Weber County, plus 1.81% statewide sales tax increase on top of that for school district bottomless abyss' if they are removed from property tax bills. Smoke and mirrors anyone? Add to that Water Conservancy and Fire Districts tax rate increases of 16.5 and 27%. The tax'em to death feeding frenzy is just getting started again for 2008. It is as if public outrage over - and demands for - significant tax reform have fallen on deaf, dumb and blind legislators, commissioners, and a multitude of "other taxing entities". Yesterday, the Utah House of Representatives announced they have the votes they need to pass a $90 million tax cut in the upcoming session. And IF our Governor (Huntsman) and the Senate goes along, they plan a $15 million property tax cut for homeowners and businesses, $15 million personal income tax cut for independently employed and who pay their own health insurance and about $60 million for further tax cuts "in other areas".
$15 Million amounts to less than $5.00 off each of our property taxes. It is an outrage and an insult to the people of this State. We demand a significant rollback and reform of property taxation and the legislators offer five bucks "relief"? This - in the face of statewide record numbers of property tax appeals and excruciating agony over whether to cut food, medications, heat, and other survival needs among both the old and infirm, as well as young couples also struggling to make ends meet. Five bucks relief, no reforms, just $5.00 or less per household is Utah's legislator's answer to constituents.
Are we interested in joining a National Tax Revolt? Are we willing to dramatically show our collective will to demonstrate resolve? I think so. People are currently seething and in a "wait and see" frame of mind after Davis County offered one time rebates for properties assessed more than 24% higher than last year. And we here in Ogden Valley, as in many areas of the State, are awaiting the results of "Appeals" to the Boards of Equalization in many counties in record numbers. Those results are beginning to trickle in.
"Shirley", my metaphor for Huntsville Town, represents the average (mean, median and mode) with her taxable assessed valuation increasing every year for the past three years or more. This year her humble 1908 wood frame cottage on .38 acres increased 118% and her property tax 92%. She is 86 years young, a widow and intimidated by the appeals process. She also can not afford a property tax increase from $1004 last year that inexplicably increased to $1,928 this year (house market value from $137,513 in '06 to $299,500 in '07). Her home is worth about $125,000 tops on the open market. Yet she received a check for $189 "for overpayment of property taxes" after her "appeal". This is what uncontrolled and unaccountable local government has wrought upon us. Gross over taxation without representation beyond token possibilities where citizens can rail against it. But local taxing entities, like our legislature, simply do not listen. The newspapers and media are either complicit or intimidated by "the power of various political lobby's or the threats to their advertising revenues".
So it will be in the final analysis, a fight of historic proportions and one which will cut across the grain of cultural druthers. None us wants this fight against our own elected officials. But then we are not the ones "so blind, so deaf, and so dumb they will not see, hear, or demonstrate how smart they are to us".
We are a constitutional republic based upon democratic principles - and I fear we are failing to keep it. If it takes withholding next year's property taxes en-mass, I say let's get started now preparing tables/charts, for each State, which show rows and columns with delinquent tax penalty percentages calculated for ease of use and footnotes with any legal issues appropriate for each State.
One thing appears certain, these "feather merchants" we have elected will do nothing unless we band together and demonstrate in significant numbers our collective economic strength. It is time for "hard ball" in Utah and perhaps in other States as well. Ron's diplomatic approach using communication and reason has predictably failed. It assumed leadership and intelligence where in truth there is the same collective IQ as the flock of 52 wild turkeys now roaming around my property, overwhelmed and lost in a blizzard.
Utah Wingmen for Property Tax Reform
First, let me thank you for returning my call. Let me also wish you a fantastic holiday and new year. I look forward to discussing our Tax Revolt and late tax payment concepts with you and any other National Taxpayers Union folks after the new year.
You had asked that I share with you the folks and organizations that we have been and hope to be working with to promote the Tax Revolt. So I have copied each of those folks.
I explained that if the Arizona Tax Revolt fails to qualify the Property Tax Rollback measures it would be because the system is stacked against newcomers to the political game, not because our ideas are unworthy. Without mainstream press coverage folks don’t know we exist. Because they don’t know of our existence we neither have a sufficient number of volunteers or donations with which to hire signature gatherers. With six months remaining until the July 3rd deadline and since failure is not an option, it was apparent that we need to assure success in an unconventional way.
A gentleman, Ed Carels from Newport Beach, California contacted me a couple of weeks ago. He was impressed with our proposed solutions for the Arizona property taxation system and thought that perhaps we could garner the necessary support by recreating the Boston Tea Party. As you know there are Property Tax Revolts going on in many states, each promoting worthwhile changes. If the changes are proposed by government they are usually little more than window dressing to placate the taxpayer, like for instance a one time freeze on value or some such thing that does little if anything to limit over taxation.
Just like the Boston Tea Party in 1773, the means to achieve a fair taxation system is to deprive the government of tax revenue. This time it will not be due to a shortage of representation but instead due to the failure of our representatives to act in the interest of the property taxpayers. Since local government can not print money the shortfall in revenue will be felt in Arizona beginning on March 1 when the next property tax payment is due and until certain reasonable taxpayer demands are met. The Legislature will feel the sting since they are on the hook to make up any property tax revenue shortfall to the schools by in large the biggest piece of the property tax pie.
For Arizona the preliminary list of demands are:
1) Amnesty for those who make late property tax payments
2) Refer the L.A.W. and S.O.L.E. (anti- illegal alien) initiatives to the ballot
3) Refer the two Tax Revolt initiatives to the ballot
4) A commitment to the Legislature hosting a minimum of six hours of televised debates on the initiatives carried by the local network affiliates prior the Nov. Election.
We have been in touch with D-Bell from Utah who has been fighting property taxes there. His organization is intrigued with the Tax Revolt concept. Don Goldwater and Russell Pierce are promoting the LAW and SOLE border enforcement initiatives and are both aware of this proposal and its potential.
We will be discussing this proposal as well as the benefits of our levy and baseline valuation rollback measures with the Free Enterprise Club after the holidays. The Goldwater Institute will in the coming months produce a white paper outlining the benefits of the measures and their impact on local and state government revenue.
The following are Domains that we have reserved for this effort:
USATAXREVOLT .COM & .ORG
NATIONALTAXREVOLT.COM & .ORG
I look forward to discussing the plan with you after the holiday’s.
Marc Goldstone, Chair.
Arizona Tax Revolt
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Utah State legislators said on Tuesday, 19 Dec., that they favor a 15 Million dollar property tax relief package. WOW! That's about $6.00 or $7.00 off our property tax bills!
No property tax reform measures are being proposed or discussed. All proposals on the table so far, are either stupid Band Aids or pandering to seniors. None address the "disease" which is clearly "fair market valuations" in assessments.
Transparency in Government is a good bill. Also the one which removes school districts from property taxes in exchange for what turns out to be a 1.81% increase in sales tax. It will lower the actual property tax bill, if passed, yet hold public education harmless by doling out more and more to school districts with no accountability. However; it does nothing to solve the root cause of the "disease" (how all our property taxes are calculated), nor does it roll-back our property assessments.
The Utah Realtor Association has done "their thing" on all efforts to reform property tax valuations and the laws which require them. And they have done it for at least the past seven years. So I have decided to let you all in on their dirty little secrets. You will be told how they interfere with legislation, the techniques they use, and the power their leadership virtually brags about. And you will hear it from "them" in their leadership's own words.
You will be exposed to their propaganda and standard talking points, their line of BS in other words, and you will come away like many are already saying..."We have too many Realtors and developers and school district people in the legislature." And it will be up to you and me to get them out of office at every level of government. To remove both them and their legislative/legal influences on our lives once and for all.
It is a long story, so I will endeavor to dole it out in small enough doses so that you can digest it as a series.
The first of the series will begin after the new year, when any hangovers are cured and things are back to "normal". If you can call scurrying around in search of receipts and tax information "normal". So be patient and wait for it. You will be amazed by the whole sad situation, but there is hope and a happy ending on the horizon once you know the facts about how they operate on a local, state and national level.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
This ought to get some comments! The truth about School Districts and teacher's salaries...the biggest part of all our taxes.
Since our own Weber County chooses to behave like white trash and with hold salary information providing only hourly rates, much like Huntsville. I will use a more honest and straightforward County (Davis) which understands transparency in governance.
The median "teacher" in Davis County (after going down a list of some almost 300 administrators who are paid handsomely, with the first 11 getting from $157,428 to $99,985 BEFORE benefits) you come to the first teacher at $60,665. Normalized, the teacher is actually getting paid 1.4 X $60,665 or $84,931 for 186 days of work. ($456.62/day) Normalized to a yearly basis (234 work days minus 186 equals 48 X $456.62 = $21,917 + $84,931 = $106,848.76 a year. And that is conservative by making the assumption that teacher benefits are only worth about 40% more. We pay 30% of their salaries into their retirement funds for example. They invest the 30% we provide so in reality we pay 100% of their retirement since the interest and dividends earned is income we sacrificed (see Ut. Taxpayer Assoc.) Medical, Dental, stipends, and other perks are very likely considerably more dollars.
Now for the average Davis County "poor little ole teacher". How much is she/he actually being paid? The Mean, Median, and Mode for the 1708th Davis County teacher is $50,060. Times 1.4 (conservative estimate of benefits paid by us taxpayers = $70,085 which comes to $376.80/day which equals 48 X $376.80 = $18,086 + $70,085 = $88,171 a year. And they get three months off in the summer. Unless they want a furlough which is a fully paid two year off deal so they can goof off or go for an advanced degree on us usually.
What about that lowest of the low? The bottom of the Davis Co. salaried teachers, the new beans or entry level teacher? $30,183 salary X 1.4 = $42,256 which is $227.18 a day which equals 48 X $227.18 = $10,905 + 42,256 = $53,161.
Now excuse ME! But I don't think Electrical Engineers (EEs) in Engineering get offers in major industry right out of college to be paid at a rate of $53,161 a year with three months vacation in the summer. And I know for a dead certain fact that they do not get retirement benefits (nor does the military or the Govt. Civil Servants for that matter) anywhere near what the teachers are being allowed/paid at our expense. And I guarantee no EE, even with a Masters degree or a Doctorate degree, gets UEA days, holidays, teacher's days, and all regular holidays off in addition to the three months off a year. And EE's don't get paid assistants to do everything our generation tends to think teacher's still do either.
So add the $2,000 raises and $5,000 bonuses...by all means! Governor Huntsman kneel to the UEA Union, shuck up to incompetence in forgiveness for your voucher support, chasing some magic salary figure without any real accountability coming from that public school sector. Let them spend our money on banquets, balloons, and BS; on administrators who are both unnecessary and overpaid, on paid playground supervisors, paid reading coaches, paid students to grade papers, for ... well you should get the idea... This is not the same Public School System that we grew up with. It is one thoroughly out of control with no reigns in any of our legislator's or Governor's hands.
Let this continue without the guts to legislate a maximum of five (5) dependents claimable on State "Education Tax" returns and the UEA Union will continue to grind us all into the dirt. School Districts have already taken over critical State decisions from the legislature and local governments. Soon the top UEA Union person will be the real Governor of Utah and the legislators will all be public school administrators/teachers and the transition will be complete. Our taxes whether sales, education (Income), or property taxes will know no limits. The schools will empty because no one but the teacher's union membership will be able to live here and they will be in charge of educating only their own kids in empty mansion marbled showcase compounds.
At some point you guys in the legislature gotta get a shot of testosterone and stand up to these smiling crooks and send them packing. The best way is five (5) count'em only five dependents per family. Phase it in over several years but do it. It is the root cause and you know it.
OK all you PTA propagandized and teacher union folks, Mormon and Catholic large family advocates tell me where I'm wrong...
Minor Machman or D-Bell
Friday, December 14, 2007
Where Do Your Federal Tax Dollars Go? Now that we know 100% of our Utah Income taxes go to education.
This little beauty with tax information is just out in time for the holidays... Also I just might have found a solution to the possible negatives of acquisition value taxation eg; (a) could be considered difficult for our kids later down stream due to accumulated tax burdens, and (b) difficulty of "selling it" to the Realtor Association lobby. I am talking to Marc Goldstone, Chairman of the Arizona Tax Revolt. They have been working day and night for almost two years on this, plus spent some significant bucks on constitutional legal issues. Although very similar to "acquisition value" they have come up with "baseline value" methodology and preliminarily it looks and sounds promising.
I would like to put together an Advisory Board and do some serious research and collective thinking on this "baseline value" initiative. So if any of you out there are willing to give up some time analyzing and meeting say at the Branch Library in Huntsville please contact me via email. I'd like about a half dozen of us to explore it in detail individually and then meet as a small group to discuss its pros and cons. Need accountants, engineer, early thirties to us oldsters, CPAs, tax legal, business, realtor and plain ole good common sense kinda people for this effort.
We are not alone in this. As it turns out there are groups forming all across America with strikingly similar problems and concerns who are organizing to fight against oppressive bureaucracies who only know how to spend, with unlimited appetites for more and more tax dollars. We just might find ourselves a part of a National Tax Revolt unless legislators start to listen and lobbyists (including apparently our own Lt. Governor) back off and let our legislators legislate on behalf of the people (us taxpayers) instead of the special interest groups they lobby for.
Where Do Your Taxes Go? Find Out Online!
The federal government has announced the early launch of USASpending.org, an online portal to help you find out how your federal tax dollars are being spent. The website was mandated by last year's NTU-backed Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act. Better known as the Coburn-Obama bill, it ensures that information about all federal grant and contract spending above $25,000 is published online for ordinary citizens to review.
This is a monumental achievement for transparency in government. You now have the ability to go online and look at nitty-gritty details about where more than $700 billion of our tax money is going. You can search by recipient name, by agency, even by location down to the city level.
NTU was instrumental to getting that bill passed, including organizing a broad coalition letter with more than 70 organizations signing on, and now we urge you to log on to the website and put it to use!
If you are interested in transparency and accountability in government, visit USASpending.org today and let it start with you.
Thanks to all our NTU members who made this possible!
Thursday, December 13, 2007
We were perplexed that the public hearing session was being taken over by a couple of members of the Board. The Board seemed a little flummoxed also.
Finally, Mr. Lyle Allen of Huntsville rose and spoke. He explained how his property taxes had gone up 100%. That sometimes this constant increase in tax rates just has to stop. Sometimes government just has to “back off”. Mr. Allen also said these little increases are ending up with people having very large tax bills.
The 2008 Budget was presented by Chief Austin, who explained that the 16.5% increase was the result of how the State required them to report the increase. But that really only 8.8% was the true increase being requested after new growth was considered.
Sandra Tuck from Liberty rose and said in no uncertain terms that she...... click here for more
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
But one thing is certain, as many citizens voted against the “Opinion” as those who voted for it. And that public voice is clear. Commissioners, do not raise our taxes any more!
The little people struggling to make ends meet have already been abused by UTA. We have already been paying. Weber citizens who drive pay 43 cents a gallon at the pump, $78 minimum per vehicle yearly with registration, safety, emissions, corridor preservation and transit fees. Add to that what our Federal taxes provide for roads and transit. $500 Million in grant money to Utah County already pledged, for example. All this for roads and transit.
Yet there is never enough. So every County resident is already paying for “mass transit” whether they use public transit or not. We all benefit from reduced congestion and energy conservation they tell us.
Since before 2000 we have been paying and as of 21 July 2007:
State Sales & Use Tax 4.75%
Local Sales & Use Tax 1.0 %
Mass Transit Tax .25%
Additional Mass Transit Tax .25%
County Option Sales Tax .25%
County Botanical Cultural, Zoo Tax (RAMP).10%
*Additional-additional Mass Transit Tax .25% (still hanging in the balance)
Downright depressing Weber Co. Tax Total 6.85%
UTA and Commissioners, what we see everyday is Olympic sized new busses which seat about forty people steaming around the County either empty or with a maximum of about eight people sitting in them. What we see is shining gigantic UTA demands, threats of service cutbacks, and obvious fraud waste and abuse. Fraudulent claims of service cutbacks - where little exists in the first place, wasteful and grossly inefficient service routings - using forty passenger buses brimming with very low rider-ship, and extortionist demands for inappropriate taxpayer funding.
If UTA cuts back services because they can not be made whole on yet another nine million of taxpayer money a year so what? It is way past time UTA quit sucking the public tit. UTA buy your own milk using the interest money from hundreds of millions we have already been bilked into paying you.
If our Commissioners “enact” another “Opinion Question One” Tax* we will be paying well in excess of $26.1 Million a year for “Mass Transit” whether we use it or not. No specifics, no cost benefits analysis, no competitive bids nor even estimates. It would be just a 4th transit tax with no end date on top of many other UTA taxes already being paid forever. None of these “mass transit taxes” have “end dates” attached. We do not think you Commissioners have completely lost your collective minds. Please prove us right.
Commissioners tell UTA they need to get their house in order and manage efficiently before they come to the sales tax well again. Ask when they will become self sufficient and sustain their own operations. A core function of local and State government is to facilitate, not pay for public transportation. If it was we would like our cut of the “Mass transit tax” in new BMW convertibles with all fuel and maintenance included please. Better yet, considering how many are using it you can buy the UTA customers each a “Beamer” and still save us taxpayers hundreds of millions. Something about effective “cost benefit analysis” and whether it was ever done in the past.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Friday, December 7, 2007
School districts: $1.27 billion — 56 percent (+100% Income taxes to education)
Counties: $406.6 million — 18 percent
Cities and towns: $332.7 million — 15 percent
Special districts: $255.5 million — 11 percent
Ratings of Property Tax Proposals
1. Annual Market Value Assessments, (Committee, Rep. Harper?), amends TNT requiring a mandatory cyclical (yearly) appraisal using mass uniform computer assisted system to value real property. Counties of the first class by Jan. 09, second class by Jan. ’10, and third class Jan ’11. It is to be jointly administered by the State Tax Commission and Counties.
Rating: Worst, because it does what Weber Co. and some other counties have already been doing to us by "mass reassessments", using computer software. The proposal presented had initial software purchase cost of about $2 Million, plus another $10,000,000 a year to keep it updated or as a user fee. This proposal to use expensive software will just compound the many previous errors already in the tax assessor's database causing a nightmare for the entire State. And at great additional costs on top of the hundreds of millions we already are pouring into County Assessor's offices (29 of them) plus the State Tax Commission. It compounds the disease of current market value by magnifying disparate taxation using contentious software as another layer to Multiple Listing Services (MLS) software already contentious and fraught with errors.
2. Tax Circuit Breaker Amendments (Rep. Allen), (P) Change definition of what is included in “household income” under the Circuit Breaker program. Excludes other working family member’s incomes.
Rating: Poor, due to exclusion of other working family member’s incomes and shifting tax responsibility to others. Does nothing to fix our “disease”. Worse it gives legislators excuses to do nothing to fix the real problems.
3. Senior Citizen Property Tax Safe Harbor (Sen. Buttars), (P) Provide that a senior citizen cannot lose his or her home due to failure to pay property taxes.
Rating: Poor, although probably “means/income tested” it does not address those who sacrifice meds, food, heat etc. before losing their homes/independence. This is just another tax deferral bill. Plus shifts tax burdens. Does nothing to fix the tax “disease”.
4. Exemption Amendments (Rep Dee), (P) Amend circuit breaker qualifying limits and credit amounts. Amend definition of primary residence (based on zoning rather than use of property).
Rating: Poor, due to expansion of already abused 45 % primary residence discounts and because it shifts the tax burden to others. Does not address the tax “disease”. Provides another excuse for legislative inaction.
5. Determination of Taxable Value, (Rep. Dee), Provide that taxable value is based on three-year average.
Rating: Poor, due to last three years of inflated property assessments and captures bad assessment data without quality controls. Does nothing to address/fix the “disease”. Provides "cover" for legislators trying to dodge the real issues.
6. Valuation Base, (Rep Frank), Base property tax on square footage of the improvement (home) and acreage of the real property (regardless of location or market value).
Rating: Fair, simplifies elaborate TNT tax system but disregards reality of location as value factor. A small dose immunization against our tax “disease”. If done correctly it could have promise.
7. Tax Deferral – Senior Citizens, (Rep. Froerer), (P) allow ongoing property tax deferral for certain senior citizen taxpayers.
Rating: Worst, enables mortgage bankers to profit from tax situations, forces sales of properties to repay deferred taxes with 6% interest. Rejected by AARP and citizens in some 25 States which have some form of this legislation. Many commit suicide before resorting to such legislative “relief”. Off the charts-“ugly”, enables continuance of the “disease”. Provides very nasty cover for legislators without solving anything yet creating even worse problems.
8. Increase Circuit Breaker Qualifying Limits, (Rep Froerer), (P) raise the CB from 27K to the “Mid 30’s”.
Rating: Poor, enables continuing inflationary impacts and continues entitlement program yet also continues shifting tax burdens to others already “tapped out by high taxes”. Enables “disease” continuing. Provides another excuse for legislators to hide behind and creates the illusion of reform without actually resolving the major issues.
9. Residential Exemption, (Rep. Froerer), (P) allow the residential exemption to apply to a parcel of property that exceeds 1 acre (where zoning prohibits parcels smaller than one acre).
Rating: Poor, although applicable to the unincorporated areas of Weber County, it shifts tax burdens to all other counties, cities and towns with no such 3 acre minimum ordinance. Does nothing to fix the “disease”. Pandering to local interests without regard to addressing the real (estate) problems.
10. Freeze for Certain Homeowners, (Rep. Ray), (P) Freeze assessed value of real property for seniors(?)
Rating: Poor, this bill would absolutely shift tax burdens to everyone else and over time cause problems for everyone. Seniors need to pay their fair share. The problem is a fairness one for everyone and not just seniors. Does not address the disease. Any "freeze" seems suspiciously to end up just another bill with a "deferral of taxation" attached.
11. Fair Market Defined by Five Year Rolling Average (Sen. Stowell), self explanatory.
Rating: Fair, our problem is it does nothing to address the disease of current market value assessment determinations and in fact captures them – holding on to them over five years. Then it just continues with taxation of speculative and subjective current market value assessments which are totally unacceptable.
12. Limitation on Taxing Authority, (Committee), reduces the maximum property tax rates authorized in statute for certain taxing entities.
Rating: Fair, since it could harness out of control taxing entities with no accountably currently to citizens. Still it does nothing to address the disease. Our problems stem from over assessments and bogus MLS data being used to speculate about a theoretical market value. An impossible task for any assessor to do accurately. Tax rates are not lowered in Dec. for assessments made between the next January through early May.
13. TNT Amendments, (Sen. Niederhauser), Require (General Election) approval of tax hikes which exceed adjusted (by CPI) certified tax rate. Also amend exemption for certain levies.
Rating: Poor, it automatically adds consumer price index rate of increase to“revenue neutral” (not counting new growth revenue increase). Then if a taxing entity wishes to increase the CTR higher than the automatically inflation increased revenue amount calculated CTR, a general or municipal general election majority would be required. This bill makes no provision for revenues (therefore taxes) to actually decrease even if in a depression or recession, for example. In its current form it raises revenues annually and therefore taxes without relief... ever. It does not address the multiples of taxing entities either. Again it does not address the disease- current market value falsification and determination difficulties.
14. School District Funding, (Rep Froerer), provides SITLA funds to a school district and requires the school district to lower its property tax levy by same amount.
Rating: Good, Although it does nothing to fix “current market value disease “ it does take significant tax burden off property tax bill (55 to 75%) and thus offers significant property tax relief. But it has little chance with the Utah Education Association UNION and all the brain washed PTA members they can call upon to defeat it.
15. Assessment Revisions, (Committee), provide that assessor has the burden of proof in assessment valuation appeals instead of the property owner.
Rating: Good, it reverses current situation. Encourages accurate assessments. And removes timidity and intimidation largely from the current process. It is a declaration of freedom from assessor abuses whether mass assessed or personally assessed. This scares the hell out of County Assessor Offices across the State and will go down to defeat before ever reaching the floor of either house unfortunately.
16. School District Tax Base (Separate Bills one by Rep. Harper & later another sponsored by Rep. Dougall), replace all or part of property tax revenue now allocated to school districts with increases in sales and use taxes and/or individual income and corporate income taxes.
Rating: Good, although it does nothing to fix “current market value disease “ it does take significant tax burden off property tax bill (55 to 75%) and thus offers significant property tax relief. Rep. Dougall has again offered this as a swap of 50% off the School District’s portion of our property taxes in exchange for a 1.5% increase in sales tax (from 1.75 to 3.25% ($600 Million estimated revenue). But again the UEA Union and propagandized PTA members will likely rise up and smash any such logical solutions to their fleecing of Utah taxpayers.
17. Transparency (Sen. Neiderhauser), require all public information and employees salary information be posted on-line. Many States already do this, the information is available and just needs to be organized. Salt Lake Tribune and GRAMA already has growing list posted under utahsright.com where most county and public school salary information can be located. This Bill will require all governmental budgets as well as salary information to be posted.
Rating: Excellent, although it does not directly address the property tax disease of current market valuations, it does indirectly by requiring taxing entities to be up front and honest with their budgets, expenses, salaries, etc. Adding benefits values would be better yet since we all are paying for them as well. Governmental bureaucrats hate this bill as well and the UEA Union because it will expose much of the fraud, waste and abuse both local governments (in some instances) and school districts (in almost every instance) have so far gotten by with. Go to utahsright.com and scan each school district looking at the array of administrators and their salaries. Then imagine if their retirement, medical, dental, bonuses, stipends, and other special perks were calculated into those $150,000 salaries. They are costing us twice their salaries, yet the actual teachers still languish far behind other States in their salaries.
18. Acquisition Value assessment taxation, (Bill file reserved by Sen. Niederhauser), requires look back to ’00-’05 for property baseline value. Uses purchase price as baseline for new homes built after 31 Dec. 05. Adjusts yearly based upon lesser of COLA or 3% providing stability and predictability for everyone.
Rating: Excellent, Simple. Easy for taxpayers to understand. Fair and equitable with up front knowledge of tax burdens associated with property transfers. US Supreme Court defined and constitutionally upheld over thirty years of challenges were other “creative solutions” may be bogged down for decades in courts. Effectively puts “other taxing entities” on strict budgets therefore precluding wasteful spending habits. Directly addresses the disease by quarantining it to Centrally Assessed Properties. Has already replaced “the disease of current market value” in virtually every State as the most fair and equitable property taxation scheme available. With the parasitic "Other taxing entities" stripped from our Property Taxes we could see real and significant tax reform.
Good luck folks,
Thursday, December 6, 2007
(I spoke the following words however;)
"My name is D-Bell, (Citizens Coalition for Tax Fairness). I live in Huntsville in the Ogden Valley.
I would like to first of all acknowledge and thank the Clerk Auditor’s Office and Comptroller for all the many hours and hard work it takes to put together a one-hundred eighteen (118) page budget. I fully realize just how difficult a task that is…
And as a resident of Ogden Valley, which has virtually two-thirds (2/3’s) of the land mass of Weber County, I want to express my appreciation to the Commissioners. By your collective authority our Valley will receive direct expenditures of $85,350, if this budget is approved.
The North Ogden Divide will receive $65,000 worth of “safety work”.
And tentatively Moose Hollow might get $20,350 in curbs/roadway work done.
Thanks to your leadership Ogden Valley will see one six-hundred fifty-sixth (1/656th) of our property taxes and other taxes or “revenues” spent directly on Ogden Valley. And for that we are eternally grateful.
And my next point is based upon what the Controller, Dan just briefed about how revenue from the one quarter (1/4) cent tax increase would begin in April.
I would remind you that the election stated it was an “Opinion Question One” and not an up or down vote situation. The voters passed the “Opinion Question” by my calculation by only one-third (1/3) of one percent. And considering about 1,400 ballots were cast as “provisional ballots” many of which lay on the “cutting room floor” uncounted, we may never know the real outcome.
But certainly you must realize that one-third of one percent is hardly a mandate of the people for a tax increase.
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
Utah's total local and state tax burden is 10.7%. According to the Utah Taxpayer Association Utah ranks sixth in the Nation in total tax burdens.
"Utah has the youngest population and highest birth rate in the nation, so it is not surprising that our schools have the largest class sizes. And they will continue to grow. The best antidote would be to abandon a tax system that subsidizes families with many children." (Salt Lake Tribune)
"According to U.S. Bureau of Census data released April 2000, Utah "spends a larger percentage of state dollars on education" than any other state in the union." (Deseret News, Apr 2000)
2001 National Centers for Health Statistics, The new federal study reported that Utah's "fertility rate" -- the number of live births per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44 -- was 93.1. That is 41 percent higher than the national average of 65.9. The next highest fertility rate among the states was 81.1 in Arizona... The report also figured the state's "birthrate" -- the number of live births per 1,000 residents. Utah's birthrate was 21.7 per 1,000 residents -- again, the highest in
the nation, and a third higher than the national average of 14.5.
According to information from income tax returns, Utah has the largest average family size in the country. Utah has four of the top five counties in the country in the US for that statistic, and the most of any state in the top 50 rankings. [Source: Salt Lake Tribune]
Warmed up? How about a survey/poll?
(a) I believe the current property tax system based upon current market value is valid and does not need changing. Yes/No
(b) I believe with some "tweaks" to the current market value system of reassessments like allowing more than one acre to receive the 45% residential discount, putting caps on seniors property assessments, deferred taxation for seniors over 65 and the like will fix the system.
(c) The current market value system of reassessment results in taxes on unrealized capital gains and escalates property values falsely which increases property taxation whether the tax rate or so called Certified Tax Rate increases or decreases. Yes/No
(d) I understand that 100% of my "Income Tax" goes to education (about 80% to public schools, 20% to higher education) PLUS another 55 to 75% of my property taxes all of which goes to the public school districts. And this is perfectly fine with me. Yes/No
(e) I know about the Salt Lake Tribune website, utahsright.com, which shows all public employee salaries by county and includes each school district's employees also. I know many salaries shown represent about half of the taxpayer expense unless benefits for retirement, medical and dental, stipends etc. are added. Yes/No
(f) I understand that our public employees and school district employees are all unionized.
(g) Who is the most powerful and most wealthy lobby group in the State?
Fill in the blank____________________
(h) What are "Centrally Assessed Properties" and who generally are they?
Fill in the blank_________________________________________
(i) Who is your Representative and are your Senators?
Representative for Weber Co area is: ________________________
Senators for District 18,19 & 20:____________________________
(j) Have you looked at the Weber County Budget available on line? What is the amount of the raises the Commissioners are proposing to give all County employees? How much of our RAMP Grant money is being proposed to be spent on the new Washington Terrace Library construction?
If "Yes", amount of raises and costs to taxpayers is $____,____,______
If "Yes", RAMP Grant money for new library construction is $_______________
(k) Do you think Recreation, Arts, Museums, and Parks (RAMP) money obtained from the .1% of our sales taxes should be spent to build a library? Would that mean RAMP should be LRAMP?
(l) How do you feel about County supervisors who can not discriminate between performers who deserve "Merit raises" and non performers who cause problems within their departments? They must all get the same raises without any "relative merits" involved? Fair? Balanced? Honest? Or just plain counter to common sense management principles?
(m) Do you plan to attend the Weber County Budget hearing on 6 December (this Wednesday) at 0600 PM? Yes/No
(n) I think this poll is really a confused survey, poll, challenge to get involved. Yes/No
You can register your answers either by using the "comments" on this blog or email your responses directly to the Minor Machman" @ firstname.lastname@example.org
Monday, November 26, 2007
Just a reminder of several local meetings where you can perhaps make a difference in what our future property tax legislation will be. I will be there to make a case for acquisition value taxation, among other ideas, and hope you can participate with good solid solutions. I have also invited our previously unseen and unheard from Senator Allen Christensen. Right now the proposals are "all over the map" and few if any offer permanent and significant relief. I plan to give a review of them and offer our coalition's opinion about each proposal we know of so far. Our legislators definitely need our help to sort the wheat from the chaff. They want our help so let's not let them down.
Gage Froerer our Utah State Legislator, and Valley resident John Primbs will conduct a workshop to consider all reasonable property tax reduction ideas and suggestions. This workshop will be at the
Huntsville Library on
December 5th at 7PM.
We recommend that anyone who has constructive input for property tax reform take part in this workshop.This workshop is not intended as a complaint venue, but a constructive session to develop a fair and reasonable method to mitigate the growth of our property taxes.This workshop is a clear indication that our elected representative wishes to receive input from his constituents on theirideas and suggestions. "Speak up for what you want, or take what you get".
Larry and Sharon Zini
Click here for more information about important upcoming meetings and to learn about lobbying the legislature:
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Here is one possible explanation since they have not bothered to tell us....
(Source: Weber County Tentative Budget for 2008, http://www1.co.weber.ut.us/Clerk_Auditor/pdf
Bet you have not spent any time reading the Weber County Tentative Budget for 2008 have you? Here is a quick run-down for all you still suffering from turkey coma and pie overload.
-Weber County received $803,000 (3.5%) in "new revenues" from Property Taxes.
-Also $466,000 in new revenues from Sales Taxes. ($1,269,000 Total in new tax revenues)
-They are giving themselves (all employees of the County) a 4% increase in salaries. 2% Merit raise, plus 2% for cost of living increase raises. That is costing us $799,000 for their "merit raises", plus another $876,000 in "COLA" increases. Total $1,675,000 in raises. How bout that folks? The Commissioners not only charged us big time ($3 Million) to accurately assess us, they are rewarding themselves for having done such a great job to boot! So if your appeal gets a short shrift and is "disapproved" now ya know!
-Also a 5.1% increase in health insurance premiums ($300,000) we pay for. Total raise package $1,975,000. Fine, if you think they deserve it.
-Our elected County Commissioners are spending $2,239,000 on new equipment and vehicles.
-The Commissioners are spending $6,500,000 on another new library in Washington Terrace. (at a time when everything is being scanned and stored digitally on-line? Are libraries becoming obsolete?).
-And $902,000 on capital improvement projects. Ogden Valley will see a massive one six-hundred fifty-sixth (1/656th) our taxes spent by our Commissioners directly to support us here in Ogden Valley.
The North Ogden Divide is planned to get $65,000 worth of "safety work" done on it.
And tentatively Moose Hollow will perhaps get curbs/roadway worth ($20,350).
How much in taxes did our Commissioners drag in for predominantly Ogden Metro area expenditures you ask? $19,126,290 Property Taxes
$ 9,318,401 Sales Taxes
$ 3,087,696 Assessing & Collecting
$ 1,082,252 Delinquent Taxes
$23,401,447 "Other Revenue", Fees, Permits, fines, forfeitures, etc.
$56,016,086 Total Taxes, fees, etc.
And finally, our elected Commissioners are spending $122,963 of RAMP (that's an acronym for "recreation, arts, parks, and museums which defines what our tax money can be used for) grant money on construction of the Washington Terrace (?) library? So much for honesty and ethics in government. Libraries are their own taxing entity separately charging us taxes at about $180 each household a year.
"These reports are derived from the individual department budget requests, adjusted for items discussed with each department during your budget hearings. After adjusting the budgets, per your (sic Commissioners) direction, we are able to present to you balanced budgets for all funds with no tax increase." Alan D McEwan, CPA, Clerk/Auditor
If you believe all this is just fine. Stay at home on the 6th of December during the Tentative Budget public hearing. If not join me at the County Chambers and speak up if you can and are willing to become involved. The State process calls it a Tentative Budget for a reason. If there are enough objections to register, the Commissioners will change the budget. Changes will be in the final Budget presented on December 11.
Complete transmittal letter of tentative budget follows:
To the Honorable Board of County Commissioners:
In accordance with Title 17, Chapter 36, Section 10 of the Utah Code, we submit to you the 2008 tentative budget for all Weber County funds and departments. These reports are derived from the individual department budget requests, adjusted for items discussed with each department during your budget hearings. After adjusting the budgets, per your direction, we are able to present to you balanced budgets for all funds with no tax increase. The tentative budget includes the following significant items:
• Merit increases of approximately 2% for all county employees, including exempt employees, elected officials, and
department heads, at a cost of $799,000. Also included are a 2% cost-of-living increase for all employees, at a cost of
$876,000, and a 5.1% increase in employee health insurance premiums, at a cost of $300,000. Retirement rates for next
year did not change.
• For the General Fund, estimated new revenues from property and sales taxes of 3.5% or $803,000 and 5.0% or
$466,000, respectively. This revenue growth does not include a tax increase and is possible because of Weber County’s
continued solid economic performance. Most other revenue estimates in the General Fund are either flat or lower than
2007, including recording fees, road service charges, and homeland security grants.
• Adjustments to departments’ staffing levels as follows:
Assessor’s Office – added one full-time and two part-time positions
Elections – added one part-time position
Animal Control – added one part-time position
USU Extension Service – replaced one vacant full-time position with a contract for services from USU
Five departments have upgraded existing positions to better reflect the responsibilities of those positions
• $939,000 for various equipment purchases and $902,000 for various capital improvement projects. Additionally, another
$1.3 million will replace approximately 54 vehicles in the Fleet Management Fund.
• $178,000 to increase the county’s contract with the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau including an additional $18,000
toward the ski bus transportation initiative begun last year. Increased funding comes from a portion of the increase to the
transient room tax enacted in January 2007.
• A capital budget of approximately $6.5 million for completion of the new library branch building in Washington
Terrace. Costs will be paid with a combination of sales tax revenue bonds, donations, and existing fund balance from the
Library Fund. This project is expected to be completed in the fall of 2008.
A number of items requested by departments have not yet been funded. We understand that discussions regarding these additional
requests may continue and that changes may be made to this tentative budget before you adopt the final version. Before adoption
of the final budget, the Commission is required to adopt a tentative budget and hold a public hearing to allow all interested parties
to comment on the budget. The tentative budget must be adopted at least 10 days prior to the public hearing, and the final budget
must be adopted before December 31, 2007. We therefore propose the following schedule:
Adoption of Tentative Budget.................................................................. October 30, 2007
Public Hearing on Tentative Budget .......................................................December 6, 2007
Adoption of Final Budget......................................................................December 11, 2007
We acknowledge the Commissioners’ responsibility and authority in the budget process, and we desire to provide you sufficient
information to assist you in any further deliberations you may have before adopting the final budget.
Alan D. McEwan, CPA
Friday, November 23, 2007
The one bill being offered by Senator Niederhauser adds a vote requirement if any taxing entity wants to raise revenue beyond inflation. And it requires a Truth in Taxation hearing for any revenue increase more than the previous year.
And we are pretty sure that it has to be during a November general election. This would insure no political manipulative scheduling "hanky-panky by any taxing agency where only a few of their union for example can railroad huge tax increases onto our property taxes.
Also I can now report we have one legislator working on the acquisition value concept. He does not have a bill drafted yet, but has a bill file open.
He advises it is best to get more people on board. He is working with the Sutherland Institute and the Realtors seem favorable to the concept right now.
He is still working with them and will also will be working with the League of Cities and Towns.
He advises us to; "Keep your efforts up, we will need to get a lot of support for this especially since it will require the Constitution to be amended. We will need 2/3 of the legislature. We may get some push back from Centrally Assessed interests since we will put everyone on AV and leave them on FMV."
We need to hold our local senator and representative's feet to the fire and ask why they are not supporting our "acquisition value assessment proposal". If they do not actively and fully support us for significant tax reform we will remember it next year at the polls.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
So far nothing proposed will change how we are reassessed. Is there any interest in forming Home Owner Associations to group together to protect us from further property tax abuse? Let me know.
We will again see another mass computerized assessment based upon bogus MLS inputs without mature professional adult supervision quality controlling the output (our property assessments).
We must not accept this near total lack of legislative response to our demands for comprehensive tax reform.
As I suspected we are getting some lip service without any real actions ever being proposed at this point. The disease is the “reassessments” and absolutely nothing has been proposed to change the modus operandi (the laws).
So keep your lawn signs in the garage because we will very likely be needing to use them in a major uprising. It is looking more like we will need to march on the Governor’s mansion and the Capital chambers in protest and revolt during the next session. They still have not gotten the message clearly enough.
► "Truth in Taxation Amendments" A tiny bit of encouraging news is that at least this proposed legislation tries to require our (electorate) involvement when taxing entities try to raise the tax rate beyond the inflation rate. But the tax rate is not the real culprit. And in fact this proposal actually encourages taxing entities to annually increase our tax rates with no mention of decreasing them during recessions or economic downturns. Only increases upon increases…we seem doomed. However; as we all know Counties have figured out how to actually lower tax rates buy a small percentage and yet gain windfall and overwhelming surplus revenues by grossly over assessing our homes and property. They have done it Statewide yet the legislators don’t seem to understand this.
Our "current" legislators are either incredulous, ignorant, stupid, complicent, or "Frankly my dear Scarlet, I (they) just don't give a damn." I suggest if they do not step up to the plate and quickly, we simply replace them with those who will.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
• Introduction and Review of Draft Legislation – Senator Wayne L. Niederhauser
• Public Comment “I can’t tell you in words just how much I support this proposal. If all public information is made public you will see a vast reduction in false information coming out and the wastes of time trying to right the wrongs printed due to a lack of the facts. Virtually all the information is already there on-line and it would require only the cost of in house staff tying a ribbon around an existing package of information for easy delivery to us your constituents. The facts are what we need for accountability. When people can not get the facts they tend to fill in the blanks for themselves. And that is generally not a good situation as rumors and false information is usually the result. So I thank Senator Niederhauser for this proposal and we totally support the measure.” D-Bell
• Committee Discussion and Direction for Future Action It passed through the Committee with only four votes not in favor due to cost concerns which was frankly a smoke screen. It will go forward to the General Session. D-Bell
3:25 5. Property Tax Related Legislation
• Introduction and Review of Draft Legislation
This of course is a result of our widespread disaffection with the whole Property Tax situation in Utah, mainly inequitable and oppressive gross property tax bills.
► "Property Tax Assessment Revisions" Amends provision in the Property Tax Act relating to the real property appraisal requirement for County Assessors. It defines terms;
requires County Assessors to use a computer assisted mass appraisal system to conduct its annual updates of property values;
requires them to maintain a record of the last appraisal date for each parcel of real property located within the County assessor’s county on the computer system;
requires an assessor to prepare a five-year plan to comply with the statutory appraisal requirements:
requires assessors to include the last appraisal date for a parcel of property and makes technical changes. Bottom line NOTHING NEW HERE!!
What happened to us this year will likely reoccur next year. We will again hear the three Commissioners and the Assessor’s oft repeated refrain. “It is the law. If you have a beef take it to the legislature. We are only doing what the legislature is telling us we have to do. It is the law and we can’t help it… etc. etc.
Click here to read more....
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Public Officials, Civil servants, Teachers' salaries... Transparency know the facts before you vote.
The Salt Lake Tribune has put up a website that has the salaries of all public officials, civil servants and school teachers in Utah. It is a work in progress so the salaries for some cities may not yet be available. Take a minute to look at it and see how your salary compares with those paid to elected officials and civil servants. http://www.utahsright.com/h_salaries.php
A few salaries are included below for your information. Go to the website for a list of all employees and salaries. But for now don't expect to see any Weber County officials' salaries. They are hiding out and apparently don't want us taxpayers to know. Sound familiar?
Note: The salary data is only for base salaries and does not include other benefits such as a company car, travel budgets, expense accounts, etc. Most public employees have excellent retirement and health care plans.
Weber Schools: Click to read more
Friday, November 9, 2007
Nov 7, 2007
(Alexandria, VA) -- The political parties are still analyzing the impact of yesterday's elections on their candidates, but according to a review by the National Taxpayers Union (NTU), the results from ballot-measure contests show a clear tilt toward limited government. Tax increases failed in all of the states where fiscal policy issues were considered, while proposals to limit taxes scored victories in places as diverse as Texas and Washington.
"Whether they were asked to pay higher cigarette taxes for children's health programs or higher sales taxes for mass transit, the resounding answer from voters this fall was 'no'," said NTU Vice President for Policy & Communications Pete Sepp. "Tax hikes are rarely popular at the polls, but the electorate often went one step further by telling politicians to put government on a stricter tax-diet in years to come."
Off-year elections tend to have fewer ballot proposals as well as candidates, but NTU's researchers identified 29 measures in seven states that could have an impact on taxpayers (including Louisiana’s October 20 election). With one exception (a defeated transit measure in Seattle), localities were not examined. Among the findings:
Washingtonians opted to strengthen the state's requirement of a two-thirds legislative "supermajority" or voter approval of higher taxes, and called for the creation of a constitutional rainy day fund. Texans approved four separate measures affecting property taxes, including a limit on homestead assessments and an exemption for a vehicle used partly for business purposes.
As is often the case, bond issues largely succeeded; nine out of 10 debt-related measures in three states passed (a stem-cell research plan in New Jersey was the lone failure).
The high-profile loss in Utah of school vouchers (which could have generated education budget savings) stands in contrast to the loss for a measure in Washington State that would have made it easier to raise taxes for schools.
Tobacco tax increases continue to have less appeal than pundits claim. This year's defeat of a proposal to boost cigarette taxes in Oregon marks the third instance in two years that citizens rejected higher tobacco levies (in 2006, such increases failed in California and Missouri but succeeded in Arizona and South Dakota).
Government accountability issues fared well at the polls. Maine residents turned back a scheme to weaken term limits on legislators, while Texans passed a reform that will require many legislative votes to be recorded and posted on the Internet.
"Excluding bond issues, when given the chance to decide statewide fiscal measures, Americans approved tax limits or controls on government 75 percent of the time," Sepp concluded. "Although the 2006 election had a much higher quantity of ballot proposals, the pro-taxpayer tilt among the results was stronger in 2007. Those who are focused only on 2008's Presidential and Congressional races ought to keep an eye on tax and spending ballot measures next year too."
NTU is a non-partisan citizen group working for lower taxes and smaller government at all levels. Note: NTU's full guide and analysis of 2007 ballot measures is available at http://www.ntu.org/.
If our elected local government officials think they have a mandate to approve the one quarter cent sales tax hike for Weber County with only a 1.57 % margin of the vote and with three precincts still to be counted it just might be time for a march on the Weber County building in full protest. The vote is clearly one which rejects the hundreds of thousands of dollars squandered on "feather merchants" lobbying for another "forever tax" on our children, grandchildren and their children's children. We must wait to see what the three commissioners will do, but we are watching and listening very carefully.
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
I have intentionally given it a rest. The State has taken an IQ Test relative to Vouchers, local elections, and the still undecided Weber County 1/4 cent "transit" tax increase with only 52 of 55 precincts reporting. I draw considerable community pride from the Huntsville Town electorate who spoke clearly yesterday. Nuff said on that sweep.
So it is back to Property Tax Reform. Our growing steadily by the day group just might be joined by a fledgling group in Washington Co. who are where we were about two months ago. Upset and confounded by unfair and inaccurate property assessments and taxation, they have formed a Washington County Fair-Tax Committee.
Independently they have come to the same position on assessments and taxation we have, as well as the Citizensfortaxfairness group. Jim Bray and Lee Dickson are organizing. And as you can see, doing it well. The Guest Editorial by Jim will appear in the Spectrum probably on Saturday this week. It will include a petition to their Senators and Representatives and a sign up drive.
My point is - our citizen army continues to grow and our voices will be heard. If the legislators do not listen, our bodies will be required to move on the Capital in the finest traditions of American peaceful political protest. So keep that in the back of your minds as we continue to try to negotiate, convince, and use the quiet tools of diplomacy behind the scenes with legislators.
Frankly, so far I am unimpressed with the results. But then my wife tells me I am famously impatient. Let us keep focus on and faith in our common cause and stay the course for comprehensive property tax reform.
Click here to read: Eliminating Unfair Property Tax Increases - The Fair Property-Tax Petition
Friday, November 2, 2007
George Will, John Stossel, Governor Huntsman, Rep. Froerer, For. Edward Kennedy, Hillary Clinton, and the NEA/UEA Union against.
Wing men for Property Tax Reform join with "CitizensForTaxFairness.org in recommending a vote FOR Referendum 1 (Educational Vouchers) for two primary reasons.
First, public schools have failed to effectively and efficiently use billions of dollars of taxpayer funds leading to excessive taxes and disappointing results.
Second, funding requirements for public schools will increase by billions of dollars in the next decade due to a rapidly growing student population. Coupled with an economic slowdown, this will result in sharply higher property taxes.
Vouchers are obviously not the whole answer to the challenges we face but we believe that a growing, vibrant private school system can help contain property and income taxes by relieving some of the burden on the public schools and on the taxpayers. Furthermore, a strong private school system will encourage public schools to better manage their funds, to upgrade the quality of education provided to students, to be more responsive to parents and to control spending.
Please pass this e-mail on to those on your mailing list.
More detailed information follows below.
Failure to Effectively Use Taxpayer Funds
Wingmen for Property Tax Reform and CitizensForTaxFairness.org tax defines tax fairness as the collection of the absolute minimum amount of revenue necessary to fund the core functions of government and as the effective and efficient management of taxpayer funds.
Unfortunately, our public education system has consistently failed to effectively and efficiently use taxpayer funds entrusted to them to educate Utah's children.
Twenty to thirty percent of public school students drop out before graduation. Twenty-six percent of public school students completing the 12 th grade have not passed the 10th grade level Utah Basic Competency Skills Test (UBSCT). Perhaps even worse, according to the Salt Lake Tribune, "the scores of only 24 percent of Utah students who took the ACT last year showed they were ready for college-level work in biology, algebra and English. Ninety percent of jobs that pay a livable salary require the same level of reading and math skills needed to start college."
Incredibly, taxpayers are pouring billions of dollars into a system that fails around 50% of all high school age children and 76% of college bound students who take the ACT.
In addition, our public school districts have been plagued by serious financial irregularities including multi-million dollar losses in the Davis School District. The Davis District's answer to this financial mismanagement and loss of taxpayer funds was to improve internal controls and raise taxes.
In spite of strict certification requirements and stringent background checks, there are frequent stories in the local media about improper behavior by taxpayer funded public school teachers and it is exceptionally difficult to terminate poor performing, certified teachers.
In addition, during the past year, at least two school districts have squandered taxpayer funds that could have been used for class size reduction or classroom supplies defending their refusals to comply with open meeting laws.
The items listed above are just the tip of the iceberg. The consistent failure of the public schools to effectively use taxpayer funds requires us to find new and better ways of educating Utah's children. We believe that the education voucher is one way to more effectively use taxpayer funds and to help make public schools more responsible and accountable to the taxpayers and their students.
Over 60% of the property taxes paid by homeowners in Weber and Davis County go to public education (Weber and Davis School District). 100% of state income tax receipts go to public and higher education.
This fall, the enrollment in the Weber and Davis School Districts is up by more than 1,500 additional students. At a cost of at least $7,500 per student, taxpayers will pay a minimum of $11 million more each year for the next twelve years to educate these 1,500 additional children in both Districts. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg. If this rate of growth continues for the next ten years, the total cost to taxpayers to educate an additional 15,000 children will be over $1 billion dollars.
This is not just a Weber and Davis County issue. Statewide it is estimated that well over 150,000 additional students will enter the public school system in the next decade. In order to meet this growth, we will need to build, staff and equip 5,000 new classrooms (30 students per class) at a cost of over $225,000 per classroom (30 students X $7,500) for a total of over $100 million per year in new public education spending just to stay even – and this doesn't include any increase for inflation or the costs of new facilities. The total cost to taxpayers to educate these additional 150,000 students from Kindergarten through the 12 th grade will be well in excess of $11 billion.
Unfortunately, the property and income taxes paid by the parents of these new students will not cover the cost to educate them. In addition, it will cost much more than $7,500 per pupil to educate many of the new students due to English as a second language requirements, weak parental support, growing administrative costs and teacher union demands.
While economic growth will help offset some of the additional costs associated with the influx of new students, it is virtually certain that Utah will face one or more economic downturns during the time that these children are in the public schools. In fact, with the cost of a barrel of oil approaching $100 and a rapidly weakening housing market, an economic downturn may come sooner rather than later. When it does, there will be pressure to increase property taxes even more than this years 11.6% statewide average (four to five times the cost of living allowance of 2.67%) to offset lower income tax collections that go to the public schools. Much of that increased property tax burden will fall on homeowners and small business owners. At leasst until our legislature gets off its collective duff and passes significant comprehensive property tax reform.
Therefore, we recommend a vote FOR Referendum 1 (Educational Vouchers) in order to help relieve the burden on taxpayers and public schools.
Thursday, November 1, 2007
Executive Summary or Overview 23 Oct. 07
- County Assessors use acquisition value method of valuation.
- Base assessment value determined by “look back” to the years 2000 through 2005 and averaging the then “market values”, rolling average.
- If after 31 December 2005, the property (residential and commercial) sale price adjusted, minus Real Estate Commissions, and curb appeal expenditures not directly having a bearing on actual property value.
- Form is filled out (and sent to Assessors) at closing, detailing these price reductions to arrive at honest acquisition valuation.
- Utah must become a full disclosure state (under penalty of perjury).
- If a “brother-in-law deal” or other than arms length transaction, Assessor negotiates appraised value with home owner and/or licensed appraiser. Same if new construction with volunteer labor, etc. Becomes base assessed value for taxation.
- Any changes in use or classification, additions, improvements or repairs from natural disasters are reassessed using prevailing square footage or actual cost data for such modifications. An assessor responsibility - using building permits and legal enforcement of mandated reporting responsibilities from property owners, licensed and bonded contractors, appraisers, etc. Heavy fines imposed for violations. Enforced by County Attorneys in collaboration with Assessors.
- Base property assessment is reassessed each year by the lesser of three percent (3%) or the Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) by January 30 each year.
- Assessed value may not exceed the market value. If the assessed value is higher than the market value the assessed value must be reduced to the market value.
- Natural disaster repairs within 125% are not re-assessable.
- Partnerships, S Corporations, Corporation transfers of ownership accounted for.
No transfer of property deemed if: between husband and wife, surviving spouse or due to dissolution of marriage, or upon death of the owner.
- No transfer of property deemed if between owner and another for whom the property will qualify as owner-occupied single-family dwelling within one year of the death of the owner if the new owner was legally or naturally dependent upon the owner immediately prior to the deceased owner’s death.
- Ownership transfers between immediate family members which have been legally willed or deeded said property or named in a trust, are exempted from inheritance taxation and retain the acquisition value assessed market valuations as if no death had occurred. But a resale is based upon the new acquisition value.
- No (owner) fault or penalty for Assessor errors.
- Property taxes must directly benefit property owners exclusively and are not related to education, health services, libraries, law enforcement, emergency services.
- Include Fire Districts only as property tax related service.
- Segregate all secondary school and higher education districts from “Property Taxes”.
- Completely separate all non property tax related taxing entities into homogeneous groups.
- Rename “Utah Income Tax” to “Education Tax”.
- Administer and dole out proceeds to secondary school districts, and higher education from the State Tax Commission with the advice and consent of the legislature.
- Limit tax dependent exemptions to a maximum of five (5)/family. Gradually phase it in over ten years, for example, allowing family planning and budgeting.
- Require accountability for all taxing entities to legislative represented and private citizen commissions (public service commissions) from each non property tax related taxing entity:
- County Public Libraries
- County Public Health, Mosquito Abatement, Paramedic and EM Services
- County Law Enforcement (include 911)
- Water District
- Require these meet and form budgets in the same place and at the same time.
- Make it a felony to form a budget and then task Assessors to “go find the money”. Receive money from taxes first, then formulate budget within monies available or go to jail for five years minimum.
- Individual taxing entities allotted funds from a user fees and sales tax revenues, collected at State level (tax commission) and parsed to the counties based upon proven and accountable requirements (not needs or nice to haves) administered and checked/balanced by the people (public service commissions).
- They must post revenues allotted versus budgets yearly, on-line as public information. Transparency.
- Maximum tax levy of five dollars per thousand dollars of acquisition reassessed taxable valuation for owner occupied single family dwelling.
- Maximum tax levy for non-owner occupied (second residences) single-family dwelling is six dollars per thousand dollars of taxable valuation.
- FAA Agricultural Land or “Green Belt” assessment standards established. Minimum assessed $2,000/acre, minimum taxed at $50/acre.
- If county levy is less than the max allowed the levies shall maintain the same proportion to each other as represented in the mathematical relationship at the max levies.
- Should County impose an excess levy it requires same proportions and approval of 60% majority of constituents with minimum voter participation level of 40% of registered voters.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
by Marshall Thompson
“The County finances are so robust that it could potentially cause some problems. State law requires that a county’s general fund must not exceed 20% of revenue at any time. Dan Olsen, the county comptroller said that in 2006 the general fund was at 16.4% ($37.4 million in surplus) of the revenue, and in 2007 it is estimated at 19% ($43.5 million in surplus). The tentative budget projects 19% ($37.6 million in surplus) again in 2008. In property taxes that is; $18.2 million in ’06, $19.2 million* in ’07, and $19.9 million* in ’08 (* estimated)".
Dan goes on to report, “If property values climb beyond the County’s expectation, money will need to be switched from the general fund to another account, such as capital projects. If we ever got to that point, we’d put the money into capital improvements and roads. Or we may purchase some equipment that we’ve been holding off on.” Olsen said, “There’s never an end to the list of projects.” (Machman’s insert: we can find to spend all your property taxes on...)
It’s their (your) money,” Olsen said. “If they (you) don’t like the way it’s being spent, they (you) need to show up and let us know.”
I like ole Dan. He says it like it is. And he is spot on. You can get a copy of the tentative budget (for 2008) from the Weber County Website, we can and should show up on 6 December at the Weber County Chambers for a public hearing, where we can express our opinions and ask questions.
Something about: (Click to read more)
Monday, October 29, 2007
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Nobody likes the idea of raising taxes -- least of all those who are being taxed.
But, as we see things, it wouldn't make any more sense to reject a proposed tax increase without assessing the reasons for opposition than it would to approve without a justification for doing so.
ALL OF US IN THE OGDEN VALLEY HAVE A UNIQUE OPPORTUNITY TO SEND A STRONG MESSAGE TO OUR COUNTY COMMISSIONERS BY TURNING OUT IN MASS AND VOTING AGAINST THIS NEW TAX THAT IS SUPPORTED BY THE COUNTY COMMISSIONERS AND WILL DO VIRTUALLY NOTHING FOR OUR VALLEY.
OK let us examine the reasons to reject the latest proposed tax increase:
1. The latest property tax increase averaging 11.6% for the entire State is simply beyond understanding or justification. Weber County is the highest taxed in the State already.
2. Legislators and Assessors and Commissioners are still in their defensive crouch defending the status quo.
3. They see no need to change “the system” supported by the editorial staffs of major news papers which proclaim, “The System is Not Broken”. Fortunately for us, the Standard Examiner is not one of those papers. They generally tell it like it is and we appreciate that very much.
4. But on this issue the Standard Examiner editorial staff is just wrong (however well meaning).
5. The following has already been done to us:
2007 General Session SB 223, the State sales and use tax rate was set at 4.65%.
The basic transit rate was increased to .3 %.
The municipal highway tax rate was also increased to .3%.
We already pay a “County Option” tax of .25% passed in about ''00 for corridor preservation and/or commuter rail/transit. And a second mass transit tax along with...
A RAMP tax of .1% (interestingly called Botanical, Cultural, Zoo Tax (County).
And effective 1 January 2008 the combined state and local sales and use tax on food and food ingredients will be 3% (1.75% State, 1% local Option, and .25% County Option.
(Source Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel, Oct. 15 2007)
6. What we already are paying for transit/transportation in addition to the above:
Motor Fuel Tax $255 Million.
Special Fuel Tax $111.2 Million.
Motor Vehicle Registration Fees (Taxes) $34.3 Million
Special “earmarked” funds are not included in the above.(Lord only knows..)
(based upon Oct. forecasts from state economists, the actual FY 2008 ending in June of this year will exceed the February 2007 forecast by $136 to $179 Million dollars.)
**Sales tax restricted revenue for Transportation Projects and Public Transit Systems Tax Highway were up 41.5% and 164.7%, respectively.
(Source Utah State Tax Commission Revenue Summary, Economic And Statistical Unit, Oct 15, 2007)
7. The Feds already chipped in another $500 million for transit lines.
8. We have already paid for Front runner commuter rail in Weber County.
9. State B&C road funds are already made available from the State to the County for these East West feeder roads.
10. Yet another .25% increase in sales tax would also be the third separate transportation sales tax in Weber County and it follows on the heels of an increase in vehicle registration fees dedicated to transportation.
11. Since July we are already paying yet an extra $10 per each vehicle for corridor preservation and transportation.
We seem to have both the UTA and UDOT working as a one two punch to get more and more out of us already over taxed citizens. Is this some sort of race between UTA, UEA and UDOT to see who can exhort the most funds from us taxpayers?
UNCLE! I give…..and give and give and give.
But what am I getting here in Huntsville? We already pay for our own roads, potholes, chip, crack and seal. Besides, I like my potholes. They are the only thing that stands between me and the folks with their big boats who get in too big a hurry as they begin to see Pineview and water.
The Standard Examiner OPED piece continues with Mach man's comments in bold italics...if you have the time to read it. It is too long and I know it. Sorry bout that.
That's where the voters of Davis, Weber and southern Box Elder counties find themselves: On the Nov. 6 ballot, they will be asked to vote yes or no on Opinion Question No. 1. It asks whether or not their counties/communities should be allowed to impose an additional quarter-cent "sales and use tax for corridor preservation, congestion mitigation, or to expand capacity for regionally significant transportation facilities."
We realize that homeowners and business owners -- this newspaper included -- are suffering from what we've termed "tax fatigue." Property taxes have been climbing due to increased valuations, various taxing entities bumping up their tax rates, etc. It would therefore be tempting to vote against Opinion Question No. 1 just because you're fed up.
We sympathize, but feel that Opinion Question No. 1 is one of those measures that, though distasteful right now, will produce significant benefits far into the future for transportation and public transit throughout the Top of Utah.
In Brigham City, Willard and Perry, the extra money will be used to hurry along commuter rail from Brigham to Pleasant View. In south Davis County, Bountiful would like to see a TRAX line or streetcars.
But not all the money will be used for public transit. A quarter of the money, by law, will be designated for corridor preservation. We already have and are paying for corridor preservation. That is what the .25% tax or $8 Million a year forever is already paying for. And now an additional $10 a year forever vehicle registration fee ($1.5 Million). That's vital, since we all can see how fast the ground is being developed around us -- and some of that property will be needed for roads and transit lines in the decades to come. Agree but for heaven’s sake yet another .25% (total $18+ million a year forever?!) Machman understands a marriage that is forever but a tax? What is the end date of the 2000 County Option transit tax? What is the ending date for the one you are suggesting we vote for now? Answer; There simply is not one. Why would ANYONE in their right mind vote for such a tax? Why would any of us agree to give away our hard earned income to bureaucrats who have abused us so and continue to be held unaccountable? Just makes no sense at all to me.
Obviously, all that costs money. If Opinion Question No. 1 passes, it'll mean an extra $8.66 per month for the average family, or $104 per year. Folks this is the definition of “Incrementalism”, and a perfect example of how it has already sold us down the river too many times. Reject this reasoning for the sake of your children and grandchildren. Make public officials accountable and hold them to account for sane budgets. PLEASE!
But consider this, too: For our economy to continue to chug along at a healthy pace, the Top of Utah needs to attract and retain good businesses that will provide jobs, goods and services for our residents. If you ask the Brigham Area, Davis and Ogden-Weber chambers of commerce to list the top three criteria for companies looking to relocate, they'll tell you: 1) available work force, 2) transportation infrastructure and 3) quality of education. If we don't do all we can do to improve our transportation and transit, we're hurting our prospects for long-term economic success.
Sure they will say that. So what is new? My point is we have already sacrificed through excessive taxation and yet they continue with an unrelenting array of give us more. There will always be this hue and cry for more. And we must just say no. Time out. Foul. You Chamber of Commerce businesspeople, UDOT and UTA bureaucrats give us specifics not generalities and vague notions. You give us clear and indisputable facts, not projections of growth traditionally embellished and exaggerated. You Chambers of Commerce old farts who are business people, who want as much as they can get to reduce their own overheads and increase profits, stop sending out “feather merchants” to lobby and in the process steal more tax money. What is it going to take? Robin Hood to stop the Sheriff of Nottingham?
Finally, we approve of the way the projects funded by this tax increase will be prioritized. Box Elder's already targeted its priority: rail. But in Davis and Weber, where commuter rail will open for business next year, local governments and the Wasatch Front Regional Council will huddle to fund the projects that are most critical. How about huddling around the money we have and are already paying for these “projects” and keep your greedy hands out of our bank accounts.
We don't like the idea of a tax increase, either, but we urge a yes vote on Opinion Question No. 1. I understand why you would have to say that but….No thanks boss. Respectfully, “That dawg don’t hunt.” Minor Machman