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Friday, March 24, 2017

Don't blame messenger

Posted Wednesday, February 3, 2010, at 8:26 AM

The supplemental tax bill city residents will get, probably by the end of the month, is a classic case of "don't shoot the messenger."

The mistake was entirely the fault of the state tax commission, which had made some errors in numbers it is responsible for developing and sending back to the counties so that proper levies can be set to meet local government budget needs.

This mistake is like buying a car for, say, $20,000. You owe the dealership $20,000. But when you get your monthly bill, the payment seems a little lower than what they said it would be. You don't complain, you're happy. Then you get a letter saying they'd made a mistake in figuring the monthly payment, and demand you make up the shortfall -- immediately. There's really nothing you can do, since after all, you do owe the dealership the money. But now, you're not happy.

And that's what's happening now. The city expects to receive X amount of money to meet its budget needs. It worked hard to cut expenses and hold the line on the budget. Now, it needs to money to pay for staff, roads, parks, police and fire protection, etc. Like it or not, the supplemental bill is an accurate reflection of what you owe.

Since, despite having passed high school government classes, most citizens don't know diddly about how government actually works, the nuts and bolts details (our website's Banter Box provides plenty of examples of that), so a lot of city taxpayers are going to be furious -- and understandably so. The city and county expect to be the recipient of that wrath.

But really, it wasn't their fault. They relied on the state to give them accurate numbers. The state didn't. Now, we all have to pay up for that mistake.

If you've got a complaint, call the state tax commission. They're not hiding their error. They're willing to take their lumps. But give the city and county a break.

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Brian S. Orban
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