Tuesday, September 03, 2002

Oh Dear, Here They Come Again

Seems the Commercial Appeal is gunning for your pocketbook or wallet once again. In today's lead editorial they realize that
Local government boards granted property tax abatements
valued at $55 million to Shelby County business interests last
year, well over half of the $83 million granted statewide,
according to reports filed with the state Board of Equalization. In
2000, the board reported that $38.8 million in taxes were waived
here, almost half of the $78 million statewide.
Yup. Seems we're being "cheated" out of our "fair" share of tax money.

The catalyst it seems was County Schools Superintendent Bobby Webb's demand that, if FedEx is given a tax break for a new expansion, that the portion of taxes that would go to schools be reinstated anyway. Or, as the CA puts it:
Shelby County Schools Supt. Bobby Webb usefully focused attention on
the issue again last week with a novel suggestion.
How droll and understated.

Property taxes scare off business. Period. All taxes do, just like people. But people don't have real clout, or rather that clout only manifests itself once every two, four or six years and the people can be bamboozled into forgetting when the time rolls around. At least they hope. This year it seems to have caught up with many legislators, local and state. Businesses, with their enormous community impact -- jobs, new construction, secondary spending, etc. -- do have immediate clout. That's why property tax breaks occur.

But hidden within the CA recommendation is the belief that it's OK to hit larger businesses, since their property tax costs can be spread out across the country or, in the case of FedEx, internationally.It is less onerous to us locally when that happens. Except when every other municipality across the nation does it, too. Then we're all carrying each other and no one gets ahead.

But notice this:
Officials instituted some tightening of what is considered a liberal
application of tax abatement authority in 2000 when the rate on tax
freezes granted by the IDB and the Center City Revenue Finance Corp.
was cut by 25 percent for the calculation of county property taxes.
Earlier we were told that tax freezes went from $39 to $58 million during these years. But now we learn that there was a 25% rate cut as well? That's one busy IDB, isn't it?

Then how about this:
The proposal is seen is a way of helping to stabilize Shelby County's
huge debt burden, which has accumulated in part because of the rapid
development of suburban areas at the expense of the inner city.
And who has been encouraging this sprawl? Pretty much everyone in government, banker and developers, roadbuilders and TDOT, and the CA. Can we tax them?
A tax freeze is just as important to the bottom line in county
government as a tax increase. Some taxpayers may question whether it
is a distinction without a difference.
There's no distinction either. All tax money comes from your pocket and mine. The only difference is the route they use to get at it.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy

No comments: