Rape and pillage

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 18, 2004

Our Commonwealth politicians have seen to it that the laws covering rape and armed robbery of it’s citizens are severe and enforced when the culprit is known and in hand. Not so when it comes to the rape and pillage of property owners via property taxes. And the public sits on its hands, apparently hapless, or completely ignorant and oblivious of what is happening to them. It is time to start beating the drum.

I purchased a home on what was relatively inexpensive land in 1980; Suffolk then was not yet an exploding bomb. I was nearing retirement and had only to determine if I could afford to take the Suffolk gamble on a nearly fixed income. The property tax rate was well under a dollar per hundred of assessed valuation and the valuation itself was fair. We could see that if we balanced our income with our spending we could hold out to the end of our lives and enjoy a comfortable lifestyle. We had saved regularly during my employ-ment years knowing there was bound to be some inflation. And there might be a need for expensive care should we encounter unusual physical problems later in life.

The bomb went off and thousands of others sought solace in our rural community. We were forced into the increasing assessment trap because both city and state officials cared only that they tax to meet ever-increasing expenditures, some necessary, many frivolous. The rape and pillage went out of control and homeowners throughout the Commonwealth suffered. Those affected most were long time home and business owners who pay what amounts to a &uot;sales tax&uot; on their original purchase every year. And God help them if they improved their property.

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When you buy a car, or a banana, you pay the sales tax once, not so when you buy property; you pay every year you own it. And the better the property is maintained the higher it is valued. If a new house goes up a block away you are affected by its newness, its acquisition price that had absolutely nothing to do with the acquisition cost of your home. And your savings that were to help maintain your home and lifestyle, and protect your future, began to slip away to pay the unfair and insensitive piper. We pay a &uot;capital gains&uot; tax every year when the value of a home goes up but we don’t pay capital gains on stock until it is sold. A home should be no different.

Out in California the people revolted, demanded and got the right to vote for a lifesaver called Proposition 13. The people stood up and shouted, &uot;NO MORE.&uot;

Politicians suddenly realized they could lose their cushy jobs if they didn’t listen carefully and take the necessary action. This included paring down expenditures and for them that was almost too brave an action to take. The people had found one way to take some control over their taxation; it was a Boston Tea Party.

Should we revolt? It’s that or desert. You can move, you can sell and take advantage of the high cost of homes. But where will you go and why should you? If P 13 had been in effect here in Virginia my property taxes could have increased a maximum of 49 percent during the sixteen years we have lived in our home. P13 only allows an increase of the inflation rate, or 2 percent, whichever is lower. Even with annual compounding in 16 years it would reach no higher than 49 percent. My increase has been 280 percent. That is rape and pillage and politicians at every level know it. But do they care?

Is it any wonder that property owners sometimes let the value of their property go down in value by not maintaining it? If you keep your property in top condition, because you live in it, or lease it to someone else, the assessment will go up and your 1 percent &uot;sales tax&uot; will increase. What politicians have allowed borders on criminality. They know what is happening to people; especially the elderly who have struggled to keep their home. The solution to the problem begins right here; our Council must stop endlessly studying the issue and start talking out loud to our representative at the state level. And at the local level develop a relief plan based on income rather than savings. We the people who sit on our hands must take action with letters to the Editor, phone calls to council members, letters to bigger shots who have a voice on the floor of Congress. It is your money they are stealing under the pretense there is no other solution. Wise up; it will happen to you…

Robert Pocklington lives in Suffolk and is a regular News-Herald columnist. He can be reached at robert.pocklington@suffolknewsherald.com.