Croker Sack

"Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard." — Henry Louis Mencken (1880-1956)

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Here comes Kitsap County's request for a property tax increase

Kitsap County government personnel apparently have their own peculiar ideas about the effect of limits approved by voters on government's power to impose tax increases.

When voters approved Initiative 747 back in 2001, it seems likely that they wanted relief from the 8 to 9 percent annual increases in property tax levies that had been possible up to that point.

Under the limits of I-747, property tax revenue collected by Kitsap County has increased by an annual average of 4 percent since 2001 -- much better for taxpayers than the 8 to 9 percent annual increases possible (and done) before I-747.

Ben Holland, director of administrative services for Kitsap County government, sees things differently.

First, he believes that something other than tax relief was the point of the initiative:

The initiatives passed, Holland said, because "citizens are demanding efficiency" in government.

That is one way of looking at it, I suppose. Get more efficient, because voters don't intend to keep giving local government 8 or 9 percent annual increases in property tax revenue.

Second, Holland (Or was it the reporter who chose the word?) believes that the limits approved by the voters ended up "costing" the county government money:

I-747, which went into effect in 2002, requires state and local governments to limit property tax levy increases to 1 percent per year, unless a larger increase is approved by voters. The effect of I-747 has been a not-so-gradual decrease in property tax rates for the general fund over the past six years. The amount collected per $1,000 of assessed property value has dipped from $1.42 to 89 cents since then, costing the county $18.5 million over the past five years.

Believe it or not, that figure of $18.5 million is the difference between the county's general fund property tax levies in 2002 through 2006 and what those levies could have been if they had been increased by an average of almost 9 percent each year.

Now, who do you suppose would feel that an extra $18.5 million in tax increases would have "cost" them if it had not been for I-747?

I think it would be the people who pay the taxes. It "costs" government nothing when government cannot get the tax increases government bureaucrats want. It costs taxpayers who must pay the taxes -- not the government that receives those revenues.

This is going to be a strange few months, as the county tries to build up its rationale for a tax increase.

Stand by for more of the balderdash about "1 percent a year" limits on the government's levy increases as a result of I-747.

Of course, the actual increases have averaged about 4 percent a year for the county's general fund -- but that doesn't sound as dire as 1 percent, so don't expect Holland or his crowd to admit it unless forced to do so.



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