It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Well, at least if you are a tax and numbers nerd.
Political entities like school districts, cities, the county and others are going through the process of approving budgets, which includes how they will pay for the services provided to citizens.
Whether it’s educating students, repairing streets, making sure the toilet flushes or running the massive enterprise that includes law enforcement, prosecution and incarceration, we pay a lot of money to keep those entities in business.
It is the price we pay for living in our society. We as a collective people have decided that we want these things and are willing to pay for them.
To what degree we pay for them is always a subject for debate, and that debate bubbles to the top around this time every year.
Want more streets fixed? Here’s what it will cost. Want better facilities for children? The price tag is this much. Do public servants get a pay hike? This is the financial impact.
The very large majority of you will not attend the various workshops and hearings at which these things are being discussed and decided.
I get that; it’s time you probably don’t have (though surely not lack of interest). But that’s OK. We can take care of that for you, by attending and then giving you a synopsis.
The entities themselves also share some information with you.
Many post things such as check registers and budgets online.
And for certain steps in the process, public notices are required, which are appearing now in the pages of this, and many other newspapers.
And some of them are difficult to understand, at least if you don’t deal with this stuff on a regular basis.
Maybe that’s on purpose, or maybe it just takes that much information to “inform” the taxpayers.
And those notices are going to be somewhat different next year, as a new state law goes into effect that tells entities how much they can raise revenues before we the people get to go to the polls and approve.
That ability exists now, but through a much more cumbersome process.
Those notices include the current tax rate, the proposed tax rate, how much that will cost an owner of an average-value home, and what the entity could have charged without crossing the election threshold. They also let you know what rate would be needed to collect the same amount of money this year as was collected last year on the same properties.
When tax values go up, tax rates can be lowered to collect the same amount of money. When new additions are made to the tax rolls, the same thing applies. And when both happen (higher values and new properties), entities typically can get by with the same or a lower rate while still making some improvements.
We elected the people who are making these decisions, and we have a right as well as a responsibility to let them know how we feel about the proposals. Public hearings are being scheduled that allow you that opportunity.
So if you do indeed care about how your money is being spent, and how much of it, this is the time of year when you can make your voice heard.