Truly Taxing Issue

Call it the perfectly taxing storm — that city council property tax-cut vote a fortnight ago.

*What a difference three months make. Back in June only council members Shawn Harrison and Rose Ferlita wanted to even consider it.

By mid-September, AKA “election eve,” it had passed. Only Linda Saul-Sena and Mary Alvarez voted against. John Dingfelder and Kevin White switched sides.

*To a majority of city council, the vote qualified as “listening to the people,” although, it was acknowledged, it was only a “symbolic” gesture. The owner of a $200,000 home will save, for example, about $20 – or the cost of two tickets to see “The Illusionist.” That’s what a reduction of .131 mills yields. In reality, most home owners have seen little increase in their taxes because most are insulated by Save Our Homes, the 3 per cent (but not portable) cap on the amount a homestead property’s taxable value can increase per year.

But guaranteed, they won’t look like “symbolic” dollars to the parks and recreation or code enforcement departments – and whoever it is who will feel the pinch.

*Mayor Pam had a late-night flappable moment. It was apparent even over a cell phone. It happens when a largely infrastructure- and neighborhood-focused budget needs to lop off $3.3 million at the 11th hour.

*City council is normally a budgetary rubber stamp. But this time more than a dozen tax protestors showed up with rhetorical pitchforks and doing a collective “mad-as-hell-and-not-going-to-take-it-anymore” imitation of Peter Finch in “Network.”

That’s because property values are up. And up. And up. And tax revenues keep reflecting that assessment ascension. This year it’s up a projected $28.7 million, which surely looks like a windfall to a lot of folks — most notably those who own rental and commercial property or vacant land, which do not have homestead exemptions. But property tax (mileage) rates (6.539) had remained — for 18 years — the same, a mockingly misleading figure.

*And then there’s the halo effect. This comes at a time when enraged crowds around the state have been pressuring city and county officials to cut property taxes. And it occurs in the context of obscene insurance hikes, health care roulette and fuel costs that still remain too high.

*And once again, those not of a mood to revolt against the status quo stayed home in droves and made it easy for city council to hear — and appease — the (non-cell phone) voice audible that night.

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