Saturday, April 09, 2005

Reward and Responsibility

Today while I was working in my garden, a reporter from channel 10 news walked by and asked my opinion on the county's recent property reassesment. I told her a half-truth, that my house was assessed for very close to what I paid for it, which would seem to be a reasonable estimate of fair market value (true) and that I hadn't really given the issue much thought (false). I gave a dull answer on purpose because I didn't want to be on camera.

Based on the traffic on my neighborhood's email list, some of my neighbors have strong opinions. My neighbors have contemplated suing a local homeless shelter as a "nuisance business" because the homeless guys sometimes wander around our neighborhood. They have tried to find a way to close a porn shop that opened up about a mile from here. They are constantly griping about the poor condition of the exteriors of the houses run by the Housing Co-op (motto: "housing for people, not profit"). When I watch the city council channel on tv, I always see a few neighbors in the audience ready to comment on this or that zoning issue. The building inspector is constantly visiting my neighborhood because neighbors turn each other in for builiding without a permit (including me when I was just painting). You see people renovating the stately Victorians and cozy bungalows in my neighborhood. Back in the fall there was a John Kerry sign on just about every lawn.

So, what do you know? Property values have gone up! Shock! Outrage! We must call and complain!

I could see their point if we paid a lot in property taxes around here. But we don't. My county taxes last year were about $700, total. And the law says that reassessment has to be combined with a revenue neutral change in the tax rate. This means that the county will still collect the same amount in taxes but that the distribution of the tax burden will reflect current property values. Admit that you have been successful gentrifiers, and get over it.