Time is right to set the torches aflame

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 6, 2004

The approach Council takes as it evaluates

water and sewer tap-on fees will require only a positive voice vote by that august body. No thought is required because whoever decided upon the criteria for relief based it on the very same senseless rules used for property tax relief. If you are in the realm of poverty, annual income under $17,000, you don’t pay. The fee is $1,685, but for you, zero. At the other end of the scale is Joe Schmo…if he makes no more than $32,000, his fee is $1,516, a 10 percent break and he pays it. Above $32,000 he pays the full shot. Seems fair to me…when we are talking about a one time sewer and water fee.

Where is the common sense when this same criterion is used to determine property taxes? In the first place we are not talking about a one-time fee, property taxes are a twice-annual kick in the stomach and the amount is based upon a computer generated number stating what your property is worth on the open market, over which you have no control. If your income is a penny more than $32,000 and you have saved more than $125,000 there is no relief. No matter how high your property tax, you are expected to draw down your savings you were told you should have when you retire on a fixed income. You know, that money that would see you through emergencies and medical bills. This is because your actual income in relation to your tax is not a factor in determining your tax. It is of course, a factor when figuring state and federal income taxes…but not property taxes and that can ruin you.


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If this has not already happened to you it may. You paid X dollars for your property and it was probably all you could afford. And it may be years before you get the mortgage paid. Guess what is happening to the value of your property during those years…the older it gets the more it is worth, they say. Your property tax that first year was based on what it cost and may have been folded into your mortgage so you didn’t notice. One day you will wake up, the year you make that final payment and you own the property in full.

You are older now, maybe retired, and you ask, &uot;Where did this property tax come from?&uot; The closer you are to the end of your life the more important and frightening that tax becomes. No, not for everybody, some have accumulated enough so they don’t miss a few thousand each year. If you are renting your home only the landlord knows the cost of the tax and he hands it on to you. If you are still working you probably get offsetting raises, especially if you work for any government. (See atrocious Constitutional Officer raises provided by four council members, and always annual raises for city employees) I’ve been on a nearly fixed income for 16 years and 10 percent of my income now goes for property taxes. That’s right, I pay 10 percent of my income just for property taxes and that will increase year after year for the rest of my life. You will see your savings disappear because your Council couldn’t design a better relief plan based on income. They could if they would just think about it instead of rubber-stamping what is put in front of them.

To see how you are doing, just divide your total property taxes for the year by your gross income. The result is the percent of income you pay. Of course local officials can pass the buck because the boys and girls in Richmond put the rules together. But our council, and you, should be putting pressure on anyone that can effect a change, start with Chris Jones and Senator Quayle. Or begin by calling your Council member. They talk about relief every now and then but take no action. And they manage to spend every cent you provide and will continue to do so. It’s way past time to light the torches and march on city hall.

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