Taxes, taxes, taxes

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 4, 2005

With the New Year, many of us start thinking of taxes… As June property tax assessments have come home to roost by way of your December real estate tax payments, the city management continues to step up and spend ever more.

Our city manager and some on council continue to pronounce how much more our property is worth, and even though we have yet to sell, they want their cut of our good fortune!

There are even some on Council who hold the view that some of us are sitting on a &uot;Gold-Mine,&uot; by way of our appreciated homes and should sell and move else-where…

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What has really happened is that the city has done all in its power to drive up the cost of housing and real estate prices, in a frenzy that reaps more and more tax dollars for them to spend, &uot;without raising our taxes.&uot;

This year alone, the city will reap more than $7 million in increased property taxes and will make an all time high tax-haul.

This huge influx of money to local government is entirely due to increased property assessments without a like tax rate reduction to offset the gains.

City management has even decided that they can count on these increases for many years into the future, and intend to borrow millions each year to fund downtown centric spending on projects that only benefit a select few.

As many have noted and suffered; the objectives of the UDO as a growth control tool has directly drive assessments up dramatically.

This result is

linked to policies that limit the supply of homes in our community and your assessments skyrocket as a result.

There are even calls to add further costs to home construction to &uot;make the developers pay,&uot; which will put even further upward pressure on our assessments.

After more than five straight years of significant property tax growth driven by such contrived growth policies under the UDO, it’s about time the citizens got a break.

Other cities in our area and elsewhere have devised methods to offset the tax rate to adjust the pain of rising assessments.

When the city management states that: &uot;They are not raising taxes&uot; because they have not raised the &uot;mil-rate,&uot; are truly being dishonest!

Without a tax rate reduction to offset assessment growth, tax income or the amount of money coming out of your pocket goes up.

That is a tax increase if ever there was one…

Also if we don’t say anything about this issue, the city manager will be more than happy to recommend further spending on more questionable projects.

The potential for spending from City Hall is only limited by your tolerance for such pain.

During the elections this past spring, there was some talk of reducing real estate taxes.

After the election, it was stated that a tax rate reduction was not possible due to the uncertainty of the state budget. Yet, when the state provided more money than expected, the city manager found ways to spend it too, so who knows what the excuse will be this time.

The result of such fairytales allows our finance director; who recently advised city council that it was prudent to borrow an additional $18 million due to the expectation of ever rising assessments, can and will find many more reasons to spend more.

Rather than the recommend schemes to borrow more, it is well past time that the city find a method to reduce the tax burden we all suffer.

The historical percentage of local taxes paid by property owners is at an all time high in relation to total city spending and is rapidly growing.

This gravy train is picking up speed due to further assessment growth and we need to look at how it is affecting the quality of life for many in Suffolk.

Without some tax relief soon, all the projects built downtown will be out of the reach of many, as their discretionary funds go to pay ever rising taxes.

With so many well-paid senior city staffers, perhaps they don’t know how the rest of us live…

Our City Council has got to find the will to give a small amount of our exploding real estate taxes back, rather than letting the city spend so freely.

It goes without question that the powers to be can and will develop plans to spend all that they can get if left unchecked.

Fairness dictates that some of these funds be given back, before this situation gets so totally out of hand that the masses press for a &uot;Proposition 13&uot; like limit on such taxes.

Such measures are a last resort against unchecked government and can cause havoc.

The actual cost of granting a 5-cent reduction in the real estate rate will cost the city-operating budget about one-percent of present spending.

There is no budget in existence that does not have that much fat, especially when it has been gorging on ten percent plus assessment growth year after year.

The mentality held by city management that as more money shows up they must devise methods to spend it by &uot;Padding&uot; the budget, must stop!

During the last several budget seasons, there have been significant efforts expended to find more to spend, rather than to see if the proposed spending makes any sense.

With another year of 10-percent assessment growth fattening City Hall spending, it is well past time that we ask why there has not been a tax rate reduction to offset such growth.

As you live in your &uot;Gold-Mine,&uot; ask your council representative why some of this &uot;tax manna&uot; could not be returned to you, rather than feeding the city’s borrowing nightmare…

Roger Leonard is a Suffolk businessman and regular News-Herald columnist. He can be reached at