Monday, March 16, 2009

After voting down rollback, will supervisors lower tax rate?

Now that the supervisors in Augusta County have voted against the wishes of over 10,000 constituents who signed petitions and 1,000 constituents who showed up at the Government Center last Wednesday to ask that they roll back real estate assessments to 2005 values, the next step is lowering -- or "equalizing" -- the tax rate.

It is going to be difficult to equalize rates that range from the minus numbers to 500% increases and more.

As reported in Friday's Waynesboro News Virginian's editorial:
Demonstrating the kind of obdurate density most commonly found in that foreign land known as Washington, Augusta County supervisors – five of them at least, the Gang of Six having been diminished by one – acted Wednesday in accordance with an inevitability they long ago had determined. Unless Churchville lawyer and sheep farmer Francis Chester, that stirrer of pots and masses, produces magic instead of wool, there will be no reassessment rollback.

Hearing but not heeding taxpayers who appeared by the hundreds at the Government Center in Verona and by the thousands in petitions brandished by Chester, supervisors rejected 5-2 a motion to set aside the reassessment. Tracy Pyles proposed the rollback and Jeremy Shiflett emerged to back him.

Opponents of the reassessment, which increases property values by more than a fourth, had labeled the showdown as a tax revolt tea party, and without dumping crates into the drink, did their able best to replicate the rebellion. Traveling on tractors and in trucks and cars and spilling from one room into another at the government center, taxpayers shouted and shook fists, all to no avail. Never mind questions over the reassessment’s accuracy and methodology, the process, supervisors tell us, is the thing, and it is finished.
Supervisors now have the tax rate to settle. Meanwhile, Churchville attorney Francis Chester will be heading to court on behalf of those 10,000+ Augusta County residents who signed petitions.

I do not agree with a tax strike but there are some in the community who do, and that was seen at Wednesday's meeting:
An Augusta man called for a tax strike. Whether he’ll find backers is not the point. People here and elsewhere are staggering under the tax burden, and tiring of it.

Americans will tolerate much, so long as all reason is not lost among those who govern. There is a growing sense among some people that government is treading close to that boundary.

County supervisors have failed once in delivering what they ought. Rather than roll back values, they have cowered like frightened schoolchildren behind the skirts of state code. At least it might be said that few people paying close attention anticipated anything different. But the expectations regarding the tax rate are equally clear.

Supervisors ought to step forward now and pledge their commitment to the lower rate. This would not quell the anger but reduce it. Failing in this, supervisors can be assured that tempers will remain at full boil and that the outcry over reassessments will be supplanted by a new, bitterer furor.
I can add nothing more to that.

Photo by SWAC Girl
Lynn Mitchell
March 11, 2009

No comments: