Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Daily "Shaft," it just keeps on coming!

Please consider pitching in a few bucks on the preliminary investigation of the Assessor's office and the Commissioner's. If legal grounds can be found we can get an injunction perhaps to put a stop this this insanity of tax gluttony. Unless I misunderstood Gage came up dry in his admirable quest to get us rebates. If I am wrong please let me know. I'll issue a retraction immediately. D-Bell

No Prop. 13: Simplistic fixes have unintended consequences
Tribune EditorialSalt Lake Tribune

It's the perfect storm. Utah home prices have ballooned. Some local governments, short of money to provide basic services to booming communities, have raised property tax rates. The taxpayer reaction is angry talk about a Proposition 13 in Utah. We understand. No one likes tax increases, especially folks on fixed incomes. But before they invoke the ghost of Howard Jarvis and rally to put a tax limitation amendment like California's Proposition 13 on the ballot, Utahns should take a deep breath and think about the unintended consequences that Prop. 13 has visited on the Golden State since 1978. Yes, it limited property taxes to no more than 1 percent of assessed value. The statewide average before Prop. 13 was 2.7 percent. It froze the assessed value for a property at its 1975-76 level, plus 2 percent per year compounded. When a property is sold, the market value becomes the assessed value. That has resulted in huge tax disparities. Taxpayers in a home they bought recently may pay three or four times as much in taxes as their neighbor in an identical home next door he bought in 1978. Prop. 13 also required that new taxes or increases in existing taxes (except property taxes) receive approval of two-thirds of the state legislature (for statewide taxes) or two-thirds of the electorate (for local taxes). This has made it difficult for cities to raise taxes for new infrastructure. Prop. 13 also distorted land-use policy. Local governments came to rely on sales taxes, and cities sought to lure big-box retailers for the sales-tax base. Cities also came to rely more heavily on the tax-increment financing created by redevelopment agencies, which sometimes trample property rights. Finally, because Prop. 13 provided a loophole for commercial property, there has been a property-tax shift from commercial to residential property. Utah traditionally has relied on a balanced tax policy supported by three legs: income, property and sales taxes. It would be shortsighted to saw off one of those legs now. The spike in Utah real estate prices is beginning to reverse itself because of the credit crisis, and there are less drastic ways than Prop. 13 to provide property tax relief. It would be unfortunate if Utahns were to stampede to a simplistic fix just as the business tide is running in the opposite direction.

D-Bell's (aka Minor Machman's) Comments: Wonder why these news people just don't get it? There have been about 11 or more States which have passed prop.13 "type" homeowner protections for the very reasons we are being forced to endure. Why can't these people understand for instance that Oregon (as green, liberal, granola and "blue" a State as Utah is red meat, "supposedly conservative", frugal, and "red" a State as exists with the contiguous US. Yet the residents of Oregon arose and demanded legislative action. They had the benefit of looking at almost 20 years of California economic data/statistics and basically did the following: they set the assessed property market values at the 1996 level. And from that market value decreed that not taxing agency could increase assessments more than 2 ½% maximum each year. I am not reading about how Oregon is struggling to raise money for this or that. They probably have to live within a prudent and fiscally responsible budget and who at any editor's desk will object to that? I begin to wonder just who is influencing the Tribune and the Desert News and indeed all the newspaper editorial offices and how? We should want to read about Michigan, Indiana, Oregon and all the others who are experiments for us to consider. We want to be informed not steered like Stepford citizens. But that is just me.I reckon. MM

Property tax paralysis (From St. George)

Sticker shock has nothing on property tax paralysis. The tax assessments that have been sent out and received by the majority of Southern Utah property owners are causing a double take. People can't believe how much their property values have risen and are in utter disbelief on the tax appraisal of those values from recent reassessment. It is causing an emotional reaction that is stirring up the past with the call for Proposition 13.

The California legislation - officially titled the "People's Initiative to Limit Property Taxation" - was a ballot initiative. It called for an amendment to the constitution of the Golden State, which was created from a grassroots movement led by Howard Jarvis to put a cap on property tax rates. It was successfully enacted by the voters of California on June 6, 1978, and reduced property taxes by an average of 57 percent. Now Southern Utahns, nearly 30 years later, are thinking Californians knew what they were doing.

High emotions are understandable with the growing retirement community of Southern Utah, and its concern about ever-increasing taxes that can potentially tax them right out of their homes. Furthermore, with the demand of workforce housing by families in search of purchasing their first home, the concern is that American Dream will never come true with taxes too lofty to afford.

Those worries - and more - are swaying public opinion towards a potential shift in the way budgets are formulated using local property taxes to pay for schools, public services, levies, general obligation bonds and a mechanism to balance the budgets. Could the call for a Utah version of Proposition 13 simply be a premature, knee-jerk reaction, or is it completely valid?

Consider that when property valuations increase, property tax rates generally go down to maintain revenue neutrality, according to the Utah Taxpayers Association. That is not always the case because, as many residents have found out, properties are periodically reassessed. Properties that are newly reassessed by the county will typically experience larger valuation increases. Furthermore, the real estate market dictates the value of some properties faster than others, which will affect how high an increase reaches.

When the neighbor's house - which is much bigger, on a larger lot and built at the same time - is handed a lower tax rate, of course a resident questions angrily whether fair and impartial assessments have been made. However, is urging lawmakers to approve a Proposition 13-type law based off of pure emotion wise? We don't think so. A complete overhaul with proposed revenue-neutral changes in how property is assessed is not the sole answer, though it is seriously in need of evaluation. An incremental imposition of taxes based on a sliding scale from home improvements, length of ownership and other variables should be analyzed to find out what would work best for Utah property owners. What worked in California, may not work in Utah. Additionally, there are opponents who believe Proposition 13 did more damage then good by taking flexibility with budget spending from local municipal leaders and turning it over to the state's powers that be.

Just think, if Proposition 13 was in effect when Iron County and Washington County needed to bond for new schools, it may not have happened on the state's priority list and class sizes would have doubled and schools would be bursting at the seams. That's not a pretty thought.

An option residents can immediately take is appealing their tax assessments with their county assessors, fully engaging in that process before collectively jumping straight to Proposition 13 would be beneficial because it will either give more leverage for proposed reform or simply put out the flames of myriad emotions with a decreased tax bill.

Whichever choice a property owner makes, keep in mind that any rational decision comes from clear thinking. Take a deep breath, count to 10 and then really look at all the angles any type of drastic change a Utah Proposition 13 may yield. There will always be pros and cons. That's a proposition that will definitely stay constant.

I really wish the News editors would get off this California Proposition kick. Don't they understand and know that many other States have passed prop 13 "like" legislation? Oregon seems to have looked at the 20 years of California data and done it right. Minor Machman

4th countywide Davis tax hike is OK'd
By Joseph M. DoughertyDeseret Morning News
Published: Aug. 30, 2007 12:05 a.m. MDT

The fourth countywide property-tax increase in Davis County has been approved.
Weber Basin Water Conservancy District, which manages water resources in Davis, Weber, Summit, Morgan and southern Box Elder counties, elected to increase property taxes during an Aug. 20 hearing in Ogden.

Davis County, the Davis School District and the Davis Mosquito Abatement District also have approved tax increases.

Residents in various cities were hit with a fifth property-tax increase, as well. The Syracuse City Council recently passed a tax increase and so did the North Davis Fire District, which serves residents of West Point and Clearfield.

Weber Basin Water users will see a tax increase of $4.90 a year on the average home valued at $212,000 in the five counties. The hike is expected to generate $1.9 million a year for various projects, said Tage Flint, the district's general manager.
Weber Basin Water Conservancy District provides culinary, secondary, industrial and agricultural water to its users and is required to manage dams built by the federal government.
The bulk of the revenue from the tax increase will be spent on four dams: Willard Bay, Wanship, East Canyon and Pineview. The dam at Willard Bay needs repairs, but the other three need to be upgraded to comply with new seismic standards, Flint said.

Last year mine was $20.96, and I live inside Huntsville Town where I already am paying for Secondary Water ($200/year) and the real culinary water bill comes to about $1,548/year when the Town Enterprise Fund (culinary water) operating expenses are pro rated and the monthly bill are added together . This year's tax, now that the Weber Basin people just met and approved it.($56.54). That is a one-hundred and seventy persent (170%) increase for culinary and secondary water I never see or use? (Oh sure on occasssion I take a slurp from a public water fountain but..hey if it costs $56.54 make mine champaign. Am I the only one taking note of this? These taxing agency people have gone completely around-the-bend. Completely lost their minds? What do they think - we are all sheep and will just sit back and take this year after year? Time will tell."Tax Lead", Callsign "Minor Machman", is in need of some serious wing men to fight this gross tax abuse. MM

Legal Situation

Friends and Neighbors,

A number of you have indicated that you would be willing to support some sort of legal activity to stop this tax abuse we are being subjected too.

I have spoken with two attorneys. One in SLC who is still thinking about strategies how best to approach our unique situation. The other I just got off the phone with (Jack Helgesen-Layton Office 544-5306) has suggested we get together enough money to hire a para-legal or investigator to investigate what has transpired. He needs a legal basis to file an injunction.

The investigator would look into if and when "Truth in Taxation" meetings were held by the School District and the County Commissioners. How were any such meetings advertised and how were we notified if any? Where these meetings were held if any were in fact held? Were the State Tax Commission procedures and processes followed properly? Who actually did the assessments and how were they qualified and trained? How were the assessment results, submitted in May, quality controlled and checked and by whom? What is the Weber County Budget? Why the lopsided assessments? Why low on the East side and more than 100% on the West side for example.

These and more questions need answers. Jack suggests an investigator (unless there is someone among us who can get all this information ourselves) perhaps could gather all this information. His estimate of the cost is around $500 to collect the facts he would need in order to decide whether an injunction can be filed based upon something done illegally.

So there you have it. If I can have anyone willing to donate $100 or more to this effort please send a return email of intent. If I see there is enough I can collect come time to pay the bill I will give the go ahead to Jack to get started. Guess its put up time...