Pharos-Tribune

Columns

April 23, 2014

KITCHELL: Tax bills show what smoke & mirrors don't

There’s a price to be paid for the decline in what we call civic engagement — and local property taxpayers are paying that price.

In case you haven’t received your 2014 Cass County property tax statement yet, be prepared for a bit of sticker shock when it comes to the city of Logansport tax rate. One friend emailed me about a 73 percent increase.

Wait a minute, isn’t this what the much reported “property tax caps” were intended to protect us from having? Anyone care to think what the increase would be without those “protections” in place?

The fact of the matter is that tinkering with tax rates is far from an exact science. There probably isn’t anyone among us who wouldn’t stand up and cheer for a tax cut, or even the elimination of a tax. It’s also not something that’s easy to oppose, especially when tax cuts lead to the prospect that more econonmic development will follow, bringing a rising tide of economic prosperity with it that will broaden our tax base.

Where this situation went drastically haywire is when Indiana legislators restructured the tax code. On the surface, what grabs the headlines are the cuts, but what sticks around after the vote, the handshakes and the bragging is the bill. Without aligning tax cuts with spending cuts, the bill for taxes shifts to the people still paying taxes. In this case, it’s us. Tax caps gave us a false sense of security that somehow government wouldn’t hike up what it wants from us more than the rate of inlation, or more than the arket value of our properties. But that’s exactly what’s happened, and now yet another “blue ribbon commission” has been appointed to review what happened because whatever projections originally made for legislators weren’t accurate or complete.

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