Blogs » Paradigm Shifter » Gary Burns Perpetuates CAD Myth

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In his recent spiel to voters, County Commish Gary Burns cited his accomplishments and enumerated the challenges that faced our county government. In typical politi-speak, however, he passed the buck on property tax increases to the CAD:

"Along with opportunities, we face serious challenges. How do we keep the cost to our taxpayers down and still provide superior service to meet local needs? We have kept our tax rate the same the last several years. The main concerns revolve around the rising appraisal values. The appraisal district is not under our control. However, they are mandated by the state to be sure their appraisals are true market values. Not their choice or ours. I'm a taxpayer, and if I write a check for one dollar more than I did last year, I'm not happy."

Gary uses the same diversion others have used to place blame for property tax collection increases on the CAD while our elected governing bodies actually have total control over the tax collections, which is what should set the tax rate. Yes, with a vote and the stroke of a pen, a governing body can change their tax rate to satisfy their desires, big or small. Instead of streamlining the budget first and letting the tax rate be a result derived from the tax base, they locked in their tax rate—and boasted about it—to appear fiscally restrained while they reaped the windfall from the inevitable assessment increases. For example, county property tax collections increased about 33% from 2004 to 2009 while the tax rate remained flat. Their budget increased over 45% during that period. Not exactly something to brag about in fiscally-conservative terms.

Here's a crude visual:

TAX($) = RATE(%) x BASE($)

You'll notice that if you keep RATE flat and increase BASE, TAX increases proportionally. However, if BASE increases and RATE is decreased proportionally, TAX will stay flat. Remember, RATE is a number that can be set at the whims of the taxing entities.

All I ask is that these people own their actions. Don't justify tax increases in one breath and blame them on CAD assessments in the next. I believe these tactics are willful deceptions amounting to mass-psychological shell games. This misdirection explains most of the public vitriol directed at the CAD. Now, if we could only divert some of that energy and get the public to understand the taxing entities convert assessment increases to tax increases, we'd start to see some downward pressure on our tax bills. Challenging your assessment to the CAD only affects your tax bill relative to your neighbor's, but challenging the tax rate impacts everyone. That doesn't mean you still won't be talking to a brick wall, but at least it'll be the right brick wall.