Friday, August 3, 2012

Taxpayers around these parts are getting a deal (really)

By the time you read this and if you’re a law-abiding citizen you will have paid your 2011 property taxes.

If you live in Tuscarawas or Holmes counties, or one of the mostly rural nearby counties, you should be happy to know that you got a pretty good deal.

I know what you’re thinking: Farrell is a crazy man to think property taxes are a bargain.
Well, if you compare our property taxes to those in the suburban districts in the Cleveland and Columbus areas, they are at the very least under-appreciated.

Here’s a breakdown on effective tax rates for Tuscarawas and Holmes school districts:

Dover 37.96
Garaway 28.93
Indian Valley 30.90
New Philadelphia 30.00
Newcomerstown 29.91
Strasburg-Franklin 33.53
Tuscarawas Valley 30.26
East Holmes 22.94
West Holmes 31.44

Here are tax rates for a few of the suburban districts around Cleveland and Columbus:

Bay Village 52.97
Euclid 53.31
Fairview Park 56.83
Lakewood 56.69
Shaker Heights 86.45
Bexley 51.85
Dublin 50.16
Hilliard 57.30
New Albany-Plain 55.84
Reynoldsburg 47.56

Consider that Dover School District’s effective 2011 tax rate will generate less than $1,800 annually on a home worth $150,000. Put that same house in Lakewood at the same value (which is unlikely) and it will generate about $2,700 in tax revenue for the school district.

If you want to check my math, find the taxable value of your home (35 percent of market value). Calculate the number of mills – there are 52.5 mills on a home worth $150,000 with a taxable value of $52,500.

Multiply the number of mills by the effective tax rate listed above. Then multiply that number by the rollback amount of 12.5 percent (to which most homeowners are entitled) and subtract that figure from the previous total.

Don’t forget that the schools’ tax bills, while they represent most of the money you owe, are not all of it. Property taxes also help fund cities and villages, libraries, health departments, county government, and other government entities. And $6 goes to the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District as a special assessment.

Back in 1995, I wrote a piece – basically a primer on property taxes – in response to a widespread rumor that tax bills were going to skyrocket the next year because of a healthy increase in real estate value.

Remember the good old days when your house was worth more than you paid for it?
Well, that was the case in 1995 and people were understandably worried that tax bills also would increase accordingly.

I explained in the piece that only “inside” millage, which represents a small fraction of your taxes, would increase the tax bills and not “outside” millage, which is millage approved by voters in the form of levies and bond issues.

For example, if a school district needs an extra $1 million to operate annually, it would ask for approval of a levy that would raise that amount of money. Years down the road, that levy still will only generate $1 million annually no matter what happens to property values.

The number of mills – a mill is $1 for every $1,000 of taxable property value – on the levy could go up or down depending on what property values do.

I know that all this is about as clear as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. I suggest reading this commentary at least twice, maybe three times.

If you have a tax bill question, leave it underneath this commentary on the Bargain Hunter’s website and I’ll get an answer for you. That might be easier than contacting your favorite county auditor or treasurer during this busy time of year.

I’m curious whether any Penn State fans who initially were supportive of Joe Paterno when news of the Jerry Sandusky scandal broke still are. At the time I said Paterno was hardly a father figure by ignoring his duty to inform law enforcement authorities of Sandusky’s criminal behavior. One Penn State fan took me to task over my statement in no uncertain terms.

“…I do not agree with your comment about Paterno not being a father figure,” he wrote. “I grew up in Pennsylvania and know the unbelievable amount of good Joe Paterno has done for the state, Penn State students, faculty, staff as well as student athletes he has coached and molded into productive citizens.

“He has donated millions of dollars to the university and the last time I checked, the university figures that Coach Paterno and his wife have helped raise $3.5 billion for the university. You, as well as the rest of the media, have condemned Coach Paterno before any official facts have been brought to light…”

I’m not sure everyone is aware that this is the first election since World War II in which neither major presidential candidate is a military veteran.

Given the fact that presidents send young people to war, I’d like to see military service on a presidential candidate’s resume.

Dwight Eisenhower, who commanded the Allies’ D-Day invasion, spoke eloquently during his presidency about the high cost of war and warned citizens of the “military industrial complex.”
The man knew what he was talking about.

In a letter following the Korean War, he wrote this:

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.

“The world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children...

“This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense.

“Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from an iron cross.”

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