County tax increase may not be pleasant, but it is necessary

Published 8:49 am Monday, June 4, 2018

The Carter County Commission Budget Committee had haggled over next year’s fiscal budget for several months, before finally voting this past week to raise the property tax rate 9.03 cents to balance the budget. The choice: Cut services or raise taxes.
It’s not easy to cut services and it’s even more difficult to raise taxes. Certainly, it won’t be fun for anybody to open their property tax bills this fall and see a rate increase.
Nonetheless, the budget committee made the right decision this week when it voted to raise taxes as part of the 2018-19 budget.
In Carter County as well as most places across the county, property taxes are the main revenue source for municipal and county governments and, most expensively, their schools.
Income taxes and Social Security contributions are withheld from paychecks before the recipients get their hands on the money. Sales taxes are remitted by merchants and other business. It’s only with property taxes that a regular person gets a bill and has to pay it.
The only way to avoid a property tax increase is to sell your property, and even then, you have to find a buyer who’s willing to take on the tax burden you’re giving up.
Real property is an excellent tax base because it can’t be moved and it lasts a long time. In the case of land, it usually lasts forever. We may change what buildings to construct and where, but once a building exists, it’s not likely to move in response to tax changes.
In general, property taxes simply lead to an efficient transfer of wealth from property owners to the government. That’s not necessarily lovely for property owners, but we need to finance government somehow, and it’s best for the economy that the manner be an efficient one.
The money collected from property taxes provides funds for local fire departments, law enforcement, public education, road construction, and other public services.
The benefits residents will receive, though, are well worth the cost.
With the additional tax revenue, the county will be able to maintain service levels in areas such as law enforcement and road repair.
Important efforts, all — and ones that, in a community like ours — fall squarely in the category of needs, as opposed to wants.
As well as the necessity of the services the increase will pay for, county officials were transparent throughout the process, providing residents with plenty of information and ample opportunity to voice their opinions. It helped the Commission’s cause that officials have been good stewards of taxpayer dollars over the years. In fact, Carter County’s general tax rate is among the lowest in the state.
Taken together, those justifications should make residents who care about our community willing to pay the increase — even if they won’t exactly add up to a pleasant experience next fall when it comes time to foot the bill.
When we look at the many services we receive, it is a reminder of the virtue of the property tax: In good times or bad, it provides a stable, efficient source of revenue.
We may not like paying it, but we do enjoy the services it provides.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox