It’s our money, darn it!

I certainly don’t intend to be partisan. But … government should have to defend adequately how they spend our money. The following editorial is from the local “Albemarle Truth in Taxation Alliance.” * If the people don’t speak out on 2 April at 6pm at the County Office Building, or by contacting your representatives, don’t complain.

“It’s only a “pizza and beer a month,”to paraphrase one member of the Board of Supervisors reaction to last year’s failure to raise taxes to their original proposal of 30% (they were raised “only” 19.5%). The difference equates to $15 per month or $180 per year. Doesn’t sound like much does it? We’ll get back to that later.

That statement ignores that a property valued at $300,000 in 2007 already paid an increased tax bill of $332 / year from the supervisors ‘ 19.5% tax increase. So let’s be clear, there was no tax cut. Further, because state law requires that the rate be lowered to produce an equal amount of tax revenues (plus 1%), there was no “rate cut” either.

To suggest there was a rate cut is to ignore state law.

Had this additional “pizza and beer” increase gone through, that property owner would have received a  $512 per year increase! This is more than chump change. Do you really think that if that additional $180 increase had gone through in 2007, there would have be en no request for increased funding in FY ’08/’09? Unlikely-we’d see the same  hand-wringing about the budget.

Back to “pizza and a beer.”

One man’s pizza and beer is another family’s six (or more) doctor visit co-pays. (ed. note: bolding mine)

Or another person’s two dental check ups, because some folks don’t have dental insurance. Or it might be a couple of grocery bills for a family of four, who don’t generally get a chance to go out for pizza very often. Or for many retirees it’s two months of Part B Medicare payments. $15 per month may not be much, but to some it pinches.

Demeaning the tax increase by suggesting it’s merely a”pizza and beer” per month is like TV commercials that hawk elder life insurance policies by suggesting that it only costs 50 cents a day! That’s still $180 per year! Whenever a marketer uses “per month” or “per day” cost, watch out; there is something you should be paying attention to, most likely your wallet.

Paying taxes is a citizen’s duty and responsibility. No right-thinking pers on can argue otherwise. However, it is also the county’s duty and responsibility to spend our tax dollars as effectively and efficiently as possible. We need to focus first on how we are spending current revenue before considering any increase in taxes, “pizza and beer” increases included.””

I’d like to link to a Daily Progress article from the last time assessments were done in Albemarle County, but apparently they’ve never written about David Slutzky (but they’re working on it).


* the “Alliance” is an arm/derivative of the local Republican Party; while I don’t subscribe to strict partisan efforts, I think that in this case, they have a point worth sharing.

More on Albemarle County assessments at a previous post.

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  1. Joel March 31, 2008 at 07:45

    Just to clarify ATTA’s relationship to the Republican Party, ATTA’s chairman Keith Drake just recently left his post at Albemarle GOP chairman to 1) focus his political efforts on ATTA, and 2) further establish ATTA as a nonpartisan group. It’s our sincere belief that calling for more efficient county government is something to which people of all political stripes can subscribe.

    All ATTA leaders are unpaid and all contributions go directly towards educating the public about county government’s operations and marketing ATTA’a efforts.

    We encourage Albemarle County taxpayers to come out to the final budget meeting this Wednesday, 6pm, at the County Office building on Ridge McEntire. See you there!

  2. downtownenvy March 31, 2008 at 09:26

    As a small business owner, you can expect me at the meeting. This is frankly ridiculous. Is this guy having his pizza and beer flown in from Cali? The amount of taxes that the county keeps expecting residents and businesses to pay is verging on the ridiculous.
    Also, before the replies start, yes, I DO want nice roads and schools, and I know that taxes fund these things. However there is a difference between necessity and greed.

  3. Jim Duncan March 31, 2008 at 09:44

    Thanks for the clarification, Joel. I hope people recognize the need to hold OUR government accountable.

  4. Anonymous Coward March 31, 2008 at 12:40

    I’m skeptical that ATTA isn’t simply a partisan Republican project. I’ve taken a look at the website. I don’t see any thoughtful “non-partisan” analysis of what level of taxation and spending is conducive to a prosperous Albemarle. Instead, I see GOP anti-tax ax-grinding like this (from ATTA’s March newsletter):

    “Two of three presidential hopefuls have promised to increase federal income taxes, further reducing
    discretionary spending. Higher federal capital gains tax rates will reduce the number of people taking capital gains; hence there will be less state income tax revenue.”

    This is so wrong on a number of counts. The easiest way to see that ATTA is not telling the full story is to note that when Clinton raised taxes on the wealthy, discretionary spending went UP, capital gains and indeed all forms of federal (and state) revenue went UP.

    When it comes to taxes, ATTA is oversimplifying in a way that’s really dangerous. There are many factors that contribute to economic growth. Taxes are just one, and not a huge one. Long-term interest rates are a much more significant driver of growth. Even more significant is wage growth — of which, I would note, we have had very little under the present administration, save for those at the very top of the wealth scale.

    I’m all for efficiency in government. But I have my doubts that at the end of the day, ATTA is about “efficiency”. Really, it’s about small government. Personally, I think small government has proved its inadequacy for a country of 300 million people w/a $13 trillion economy. (You want to see small government in action? Take a look at post-Katrina New Orleans.) That said, the size of government is something about which reasonable people can disagree. What bothers me about ATTA is the attempt to cloak a GOP small-government agenda in the non-partisan disguise of “efficiency”.

  5. Jim Duncan March 31, 2008 at 13:55

    AC –

    Thanks, as always. I have no doubt that the ATTA is a partisan effort (most such things are) – but I stipulated that up front and hope that others recognize their perspective.

    What is valid is the call for government to be accountable and to not diminish the fact that for some, twenty bucks a month can be a *lot* of money.

    We’re all dealing with higher prices for gas and milk and so far we’re making due without simply taking more from others. That is the message I hoped to convey with the post.

  6. J March 31, 2008 at 15:12

    I agree with AC.

    Also, what is disingenuous about ATTA is that all year long they remain silent on the type of growth (mostly residential) that is forcing county taxpayers to pay more for roads, schools and services. If they are so concerned about the tax rate, why do they wait until budget season every year to fire up their whining.


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