As real estate taxes rise, the only solution is to cut government spending

TRACKSIDE © by John D’Aloia Jr.   

March 22, 2005

I received the valuation notice for my home from our friendly county assessor. You have probably received yours by now. The assessment on my home jumped 13.5 percent. From what I have read in the local papers, the increase I experienced may be on the low side. It is almost enough to make one start thinking about protesting.

If you are thinking of ragging on your county commissioners about the appraisal and getting it reduced, save your emotions and your breath. The process is driven by the legislature and the Department of Revenue. The county commissioners have no control over how the appraiser arrives at a valuation. All the commissioners get to do is pay the appraiser’s salary with your tax dollars. The best the commissioners can do is bring to bear whatever political influence they may have with elected officials to reform the system, an action I would hope they are taking, an action you could encourage them to take.

Kansas Representative Frank Miller had the Kansas Legislative Research Division investigate the rate at which property valuations have increased since 1993. In a March 18, 2005, press release, Miller noted that residential valuations have increased 126 percent since 1993, an amount which is 2.75 times the inflation rate adjusted for population growth. Miller doubts that home values have in fact increased so much and suggested that appraisers are encouraged to over-appraise property in order to satisfy the need for increased property taxes without increasing the mill levy. He has authored a bill (HCR 5009) to amend the state constitution to prevent an appraiser from assigning a valuation higher than the market value.

What you can use as a subject to rag on legislators, and county and city commissioners is state, county, and city spending. They have direct control over spending. If they and their staffs, and all those who live off our tax dollars, are allowed to view the significantly increased assessments as a windfall, as a golden goose come budget time, we will be subjected to a step increase in the size and power of government with a concurrent reduction in our freedom - and a permanent increase in our tax burden, another link forged in our tax-slave chains.

The jump in assessments must be off-set tax dollar wise by a reduction in the mill levy. The act of an assessor must not be allowed to be a stealthy, defacto tax increase. All levels of government have a model to guide their actions. Enact TABOR (Taxpayers Bill of Rights). Apply the TABOR principles. Limit spending increases to the sum of inflation and population growth. Present any increases in taxes or public debt to the public for a vote. Return surplus revenue to the taxpayers through tax rebates and tax cuts. Establish a rainy day fund for the inevitable economic hard times. TABOR provides legislators and commissioners with an easily definable discipline to guide their budget decisions. In spite of the nay-sayers, Colorado’s implementation of TABOR has lead to a growing economy, not the ride of the Four Horsemen as claimed by those who see their gravy-train drying up.

Within TABOR limits, subject each request for spending to a critical public purpose analysis modeled after Doug Bandow’s criteria. Does the expenditure serve a basic public purpose that only government can provide using its coercive powers of taxation and criminal and civil penalties? Why does city (county or state) government even have to be involved? Is the matter one that could just as readily be handled by a lower level of government, by the private sector, or by the bedrock of societal organization, the family? Will government do a better job providing the product or service than can the private sector? Is the spending of such a critical need that you can justify taking resources from taxpayers, resources that they can no longer use to provide for themselves?

Government cannot create prosperity - all it can do is redistribute resources, reducing in the process the sum total available for economic growth. Pottawatomie County economic growth has been steady. If the county commissioners hold the line on spending and reduce the mill levy to compensate for the increased valuations, they will be providing the impetus for continuing the county’s growth, an impetus for attracting business better than all the glossy brochures that EcoDevo organizations can turn out.

See you Trackside.


The impact of government spending on economic growth is analyzed in The Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No.1831 found at


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