Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi Captain Opinion

By Cap'n O

OCTOBER 4, 1999:  A few years ago presidential candidate Pat Buchanan declared that it was time for the peasants to take up their clubs and pitchforks and storm the castle walls and take back government from the elites.

It was a strange call to action of the peasantry, considering that Buchanan is a millionaire who comes from a well-to-do family. But his call to take up the pitchforks and storm the ramparts should be taken up here in New Mexico's Bernalillo County.

It should be taken up by property and homeowners, who, if they don't know it by now, are being robbed and lied to by local governments.

The robbing and the lies come in the form of increased property taxes and the scam that local governments have been pulling on property owners of this county. And don't ever doubt that it is a rip-off. Consider:

In 1995 the County Assessor's Office, as required by state law, reassessed the properties in the county in order to bring them up to what is called current market value, meaning what the house would actually sell for. The jump in assessments was huge. Some property owners saw the value of their homes increase by more than 50 percent.

Property values are important because property tax bills are based, in part, on the value that the assessor gives your property. There are two other parts of the equation: The amount of money that government wants and the tax rate, or as it is called here, the mill rate.

The mill rate is based on the amount of money government wants, and the total value of all the properties in the county. To calculate a property tax, you multiply the mill rate by a property's taxable value.

So, if the county-wide assessments increase by 50 percent one year and all of the governments in the county need only a little more money than they did the year before, the mill rate should plunge to compensate for the increased property values. If it didn't, a property owner would be hit with a 50 percent higher tax bill.

When the property values increased so dramatically in 1995, government officials assured everybody that their property taxes wouldn't increase because the mill rate would be adjusted downward. But when the property tax bills arrived, homeowners were shocked. Many people had huge tax increases. Why? Because the 14 taxing entities in the county didn't adjust their mill rate downward enough to fully compensate for the huge increase in property values. And, the governments that forcibly take your money didn't bother to tell anyone that a state law that bars local governments from increasing their budgets by more than five percent from year to year didn't apply to the portions of local government's budgets that go to pay off general obligation bonds, or debt service. For some governments, debt service is half of their budget.

So local governments got a huge windfall, and Bernalillo County property owners, the people who earn some of the lowest wages in the nation, got hit with a tax increase they couldn't afford.

The story is the same this year. Earlier this year the Assessor's Office announced that property values had increased an average of 25 percent across the county. Once again, government officials solemnly told us that the tax rate would be adjusted downward in order to compensate for the higher tax rate.

But surprise. Tax bills for most property owners will be going up, and up dramatically, again. Why? Because, once again, the government entities didn't reduce their tax rates enough to offset the big jump in property values. Bernalillo County reduced its rate by 3.8 percent, while Albuquerque lowered its rate by a measly 2.8 percent. That's a long way off from the 25 percent increase in property values.

So, we can conclude either that government officials who set their budgets and the tax rates are idiots who don't know what they're doing, or that they're lying thieves who think we're a bunch of saps. They got a windfall in 1995 and they'll get a windfall this year. And they will try to get a windfall in two years because they think we're all a bunch of apathetic peons who exist to be looted by government so they can create $58,000-a-year jobs for their friends and political hacks.

So if you're sick of being a sap for these people, pick up the pitchforks and the clubs and march.

Damn the liars.


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