2016

13 January 2016: County services more affordable than you think

In last week’s Courant, letter writer Tim Wheeler raked our county government officials and workers over the coals, asking whether they are “part of the problem or of the solution.” He claims they personally benefit from the Henderson Mine’s taxes stating that they have served as “a personal (sic) piggybank” and are a “a sorry excuse for unbridled, profligate, and irresponsible spending.”

Forgive me, but I wasn’t aware there is a problem with our county government or that graft proliferates.

Wheeler makes an unsubstantiated claim that Clear Creek’s spending and taxation is 250 percent above the state average. It might be, but it would have made his claim credible had he identified his source. Providing valid, credible, authoritative sources was something that I demanded from my students in their research to substantiate their argument and a standard I follow in my columns.

Also, if it is considerably higher, then in what context: Average? Per capita? Comparatively in terms of rural or urban?

I admit to my incapacity to process numbers. My eyes glaze over when looking at Sudoku puzzles while the New York Times Friday and Sunday crosswords work perfectly to relax with.

Another disclaimer: I believe in government. It works, albeit when not being sabotaged by those elected and sworn to make it work.

Nonetheless, I thought it would be interesting to look at the “problem” from another angle: my personal tax contribution. So, I pulled my Real Estate Property Tax Notice for 2014 from my records to review. And I have to admit that I was blown away.

Last April, I wrote a check to the County Treasurer for $1,118.24 on my house and property valued at around $200,000, which calculates to 0.00559 of their value. That $1,118.24 was disbursed to 10 different entities and purposes: Library District, Clear Creek County, Town of Georgetown, School District, Open Space, Public Welfare, Recreation District, Georgetown Road & Bridge, School District Bond, and the Recreation District Bond.

Of that $1,118.24, an astounding $426.64 went to the County’s general fund. That amount equates to 0.00125 of my property’s value or less than one percent of my income. Or less than $36.00 a month. Or $1.20 a day. Good golly, I thought, I am heading to destitution!

Now I’m consoled by the fact that outrageous sum pays for my roads and my fire and law protection, which are admittedly only a few of the services my government provides not only to me but also to my neighbors, especially those not as fortunate as I.

Okay, tongue out of cheek. Yes, I was blown away…by how minimal my tax obligation is.

In old English law, the concept of commonweal developed. The English recognized that a viable, healthy community required the efforts and contributions of all “commoners.” That would be us. Those areas ranged from solid and safe transportation systems and law and fire protection to post office delivery and health services. In other words, a viable, healthy community is untenable if guided by the philosophy that “it’s all about me.”

Yes, we pay far more than personal property taxes. Income tax is the biggie. And yes, we ought to debate, for example, the fairness of the middle class’s tax load versus the top one percent’s and corporations’. Still, calculate your tax load and put in perspective. Compare it to what you spend on essential and non-essential items from your car payments, upkeep, and insurance to a Starbuck’s latte.

Further, consider your responsibilities as a citizen in regard to your ethical duty to sustaining a viable community.

I’d rather not pay taxes, but then I’d rather not pay for my car, Bronco tickets, or groceries. It would be nice if they were free, but then I wouldn’t have to work for them, eh?

Nothing is free and for what we contribute to our county government, we get one heck of a bang for our dollar. And if one doesn’t think so, then maybe he/she should jump at the chance to run for commissioner—both Phil Buckland’s and Tom Hayden’s seats are up for election this year—or sit down with the County’s number crunchers and offer specific proposals.

Criticism is vital to a healthy democratic process, but what makes it more valued is when it’s accompanied by constructive, specific, positive ideas on how to improve a situation.

 

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