Thursday, August 9, 2012

Davidson's Revaluation Alternate Reality

Former Cornelius Commissioner and Revaluation Crusader Jim Bensman's recent open letter to the elected officials of North Mecklenburg is getting some attention around town.  One reader of this blog asked me and others via email what we thought about it.

One reader's response...

"The simple fact is that Davidson cannot afford to protest revaluation. Take a look at the current budget and then subtract the revenue gains associated with revaluation, looks pretty ugly. That would mean several hundred thousand more dollars in cuts! This is why you will hear nothing from Town leadership. They are counting on revaluation to get them out of the terrible financial crisis some of them helped create!"

Last year's property tax revaluation brought in most of the $600,000 in additional property taxes to Davidson's budget this year.  As a frame of reference that's in the ballpark of the $750,000 in solid waste fees that were added a couple years ago to help offset the costs from Mi-Connection.  In Davidson, not a single board member insisted on a revenue neutral tax rate like David Gilroy did successfully in Cornelius. Without a single board member willing to fight for letting the taxpayer keep more of their money, the public is at a real disadvantage in trying to push for it.

While I'm sure the above covers most of why there is silence on the subject from Davidson leadership, I think part of the issue also stems from the belief held by some that higher valuations are simply seen as validation for Town policies - including higher taxes. I know that sounds counter intuitive, but the thought process is definitely there among some folks who regularly defend the Town's spending priorities and tax rates.

The idea is that higher valuation is validation of tightly controlled planning policies and even something like Mi-C where the town has "invested" in the future. The fact that values have gone up in spite of our highest in the area tax rate has also been used to refute claims our taxes are too high.

This of course ignores some of the most important reasons why people move here such as the top notch schools available.  Davidson has the best elementary through high shool options available from CMS as well as top notch charter and private options.  I have to believe that's more important to most people than many of the Town's planning and spending policies when deciding to move here.  The Town's recently produced video welcoming MSC even admits as much.  It did not mention Mi-C or policies like the affordable housing program or the CDC grant to conduct health impact assessments - all programs which are held in high esteem in town hall.  That video focused primarily on our suburban neighborhoods and quality schools.

Lower values (even if they were more accurate) would refute much of what Town Hall produces - the MSC video notwithstanding.   The result is no interest in pushing the revaluation issue.

I feel Jim Bensman's pain with the difficulty of getting people motivated to speak out. It is a very hard thing to do. Ultimately though, if large numbers of Davidson residents didn't contest their revaluations, call their commissioners, and insist on a revenue neutral tax rate, then Town leadership is not going to be motivated to do anything about it. 

If this kind of thing bothers you, then you need to get more active.  That's the only real solution.

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