Are we as a people living in times where those who pay taxes are not truly represented by our governmental electorate?
Have we as a community and as a nation regressed in our ways to a point where the only way out is revolution? Are we as a people living in times where those who pay taxes are not truly represented by our governmental electorate?
We hear about tax reform, but to whom is the reform directed, and whom will the new deals benefit? Questions we have all raised not just among ourselves, but publicly and to our elected officials. The turnover in the latest election signals that the people are unhappy with the status quo, but is that enough?
In our state, we use property tax to support the vast majority of our education financial responsibility at the local level. This stool has only one leg, and it has been cut off one piece at a time, evidenced again by the Viega Tax abatement and now by CHS wanting even more special treatment in their new appraisal. This appraisal should be subject to review of entire process in search of the truth, and not just accepted by word of mouth.
For homeowners, one sees that property tax assessment value increase by about 2 percent each year. Those on fixed income see this as a reduction in income. Utilities get a rate increase every time they ask for it, weather they need it or not. When the reason for the increase is explained, it is vague, but when the amount needed to pay for said increase is has been accumulated, the rates stay the same.
When the ten years is over on abatements, has the assessed value of the property increased like that of the old house down the street? Heck no! The abated property has been devalued by accelerated depreciation, or lawyers coerce the city fathers into believing that they deserve even further special treatment so that it is taxed at a much lesser rate than that of the homeowner.
Having listened to the talking heads about following the Constitution, it has become evident that the Constitution has been trampled by the lobby of special interests, corporations, and wealthy individuals to a point that we have now come to elect anyone out of the loop of the Washington insiders, or so we think. I have never been one to follow the lead of California, but the people there have devised a system that is worthy of extended thought, Prop 13. Who is representing the voter in McPherson? Who is representing the little old lady who lives on a monthly income of less than $700 who is trying to live in her home where each year the taxes go up, the new storm sewer rate is tacked on to her light bill, her insurance goes up, and explain to her why a company making over a million dollars a day should be assessed at a lesser rate than she?
Those in office need to remember she is a voter and they represent her as well. We can’t throw these taxes on citizens over into Boston Harbor, can we?
The Proposition 13 Revolution swept the country and made headlines around the world. It began a change in thinking about the tax burden property owners had to bear. Proposition 13 also started a revolution in the people turning to the initiative process to gain greater control over their lives. Prop. 13 would value our homes at the value at the time of purchase. Market value would not change the assessed value until the home was sold again. This would be especially beneficial to those on fixed incomes who suffer the most by rising taxes.
No one should have to take out a reverse mortgage just so they can pay their taxes. In these times, we have seen the demise of the pension system and it being replaced by the 401K, the IRA and other individual retirement programs that allow for individuals to amass capital for retirement. These investments are tax free until withdrawal. Why not do this with our homes?
Tax fairness should not be reserved for the rich and powerful, not in a nation founded as a representative system where one man has one vote. Our tax system should not play favorites.
We have so many entities that do not pay their fair share of taxes, especially property taxes, that it is a burden on those who do pay them. When any entity becomes so firmly entrenched, they tend to no longer perform the mission they set out to do, and that goes from the local level all the way to the top. Our first president believed that holding more than two terms as president started to too closely resemble a monarchy, and we need to reassess what we are doing on down the line. Just because the McPherson Industrial Development Corporation says a business qualifies by “their standards” to gain tax abatements by way of the jobs it will create does not make it qualify from all standpoints. One needs to assess the impact on the rest of the community. Look at infrastructure, school adequacy, watershed, industrial hygiene, water usage, landfill impact, how many of those jobs will actually be in McPherson and increase the McPherson tax base, can we actually sustain the business expansion without damage to resources, and only by reflecting these issues through a prism of multiple causation can an abatement be justified. Then parameters for the abatement must be monitored and pass an ethics review to insure that the entities involved and receiving the special treatment be held accountable for their end of the bargain and that no special deals are cut at public expense.
Recently the federal government has entered into the fray. In Louisiana, the Governmental Accounting Standards Board finalized the new Tax Abatement Disclosures, Statement No. 77 in August 2015; this statement requires governmental bodies to disclose information about (1) a reporting government’s own tax abatement agreements and (2) those that are entered into by other governments that reduce the reporting government’s tax revenues.
“We have always done it that way” said Mayor Brown. Who is representing the voters in McPherson and for that matter all of Kansas? “We have always done it that way” is no reason to not assess where we are today and the needs that are presented to us on a local level. The assessments made by the MIDC are not law and should be subject to the will of the voters. Why should McPherson give $50,000 dollars to the MIDC so they can recommend that they can get paid for recommending hundreds of millions in preferential tax treatment? The standard that is being used is not subject to monitoring and should be. Why should any entity be given a free ride?
Our elected officials in Topeka have changed the local landscape and we need to adjust to accommodate those moves. We must look not just for the present but for the future. Presently some communities in the Kansas City area are doing this and taking a long look at where they are headed. With the state of Kansas being driven over a cliff financially, it is irresponsible to not reassess this issue at the local level as well.
As we read the latest we see that McPherson is number three in the state as a wealth community. Why then are our taxes rising so fast while our schools are strapped for finances? Why do we need special taxes for storm sewers? Why is no one looking out for the voters? We all try to not show favoritism to our children, so why should we show favoritism to large entities that could care less about the people in our community and only care about the money truck?
Now is the time to make changes for the benefit of all, not like what happened in Topeka, which in turn put Kansas in the state economic crisis it is in today! Revolution should not be an option; ethical reform of our present structure of tax avoidance is a must do for the future of the greatness that is McPherson.
— Bobby Hulse lives in McPherson.