Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Telling the Truth -- Troy Millage Election

As I drive to and fro across Troy, MI (since I live on one side of the city and pastor a church on the other side of the city), I see these blue and white signs telling us to vote no on the upcoming millage election.  Added to these signs, is the message that this is a 29% tax increase.

If it were a 29% tax increase then this would suggest quite a major increase in taxes, and one that would not be fair, but is this the reality?  Are we really going to see a 29% tax increase or is someone monkeying with the numbers for political gain?  They say that because the current millage rate is 6.5%, a 1.9% increase is approximately 1/3 of that number.  But, is that the way it should be calculated?  I don't think so.  Our taxes are based on assessed home values, and so if those values go down, then so do the taxes we pay. 

The opponents of the millage increase tell us that they don't believe the city manager's projections.   Well, that's fine, but in responding I would suggest that the opponents not stoop to telling untruths.  Let us also recognize that if our services depend on revenue produced by taxes taken in, and those taxes are based on home values, if home values are decreasing, so are revenues, and if revenues decrease then we have to either increase taxes or cut services.  The City Manager has made a projection, checked it with the county folks (the same county government so many of the anti's in Troy are enamored with), and has told us what needs to happen. 

Every analyst of the current situation in Troy, MI says that due to decreasing home values our taxes will go down quite substantially.  A millage increase will likely only bring our tax bills slightly above what we're paying now, if that.  I'm a new homeowner in Troy, and I value the services provided here.  There is a top notch (and over-crowded but well used) library.  A nature center and a museum that provide important outlets for our children and the broader community.  We have top rated police and fire coverage.  And our tax rates are among the lowest in the county.  Do we really want to lose what we have?  I don't think so.  But then I don't speak for everyone.

But, back to telling the truth.  There is a populist rage out there, not just in Troy but across the country, and demagogues who manipulate the truth to their own advantage are tapping into and encouraging the fears of people.  I think its time to say no to the demagogues, and take responsibility for rebuilding our communities. 

As for me and my household, we're voting yes on February 23rd.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

By the way, global warming is real.
That will set them off.

Dave Lambert said...

Are you saying that the members of Troy Citizens United don’t know how to calculate percentages? When I get out my calculator, I see that adding 1.9% to 6.5% is a 29% increase. You also accuse TCU of “monkeying with the numbers for political gain?” What’s the “political gain” that will be achieved by defeating a tax increase? Sounds like you’re accusing them of lying! ("Neither shall you bear false witness against your neighbor.") Now, while I disagree with your opinion, you do have every right to say that the proposed tax increase won’t be that big of a deal for many taxpayers. I will agree with you that the City of Troy is well-run and that the City Manager is trying to present an accurate projection of the fiscal situation facing Troy.

Pastor Bob Cornwall said...

Dave, in terms of money paid out by home owner this is not a 29% increase. If my taxes are increase 38 or 58 dollars, that is not a 29% increase on what I'm currently paying.

Whether or not they're lying -- I do believe they are misreprsenting the numbers, and that is dishonest. So, if they want to stick with those numbers then also admit that the actual increase will be minimal if at all because actual taxes paid will decrease.

So, do I believe this is a willful distortion of the facts. Yes.

I'm glad that you agree that the city is well run and that the city manager is presenting an accurate projection.

So, then the real issue isn't the 29% number but what services we're willing to live without and what that will mean to the city we live in.

Pastor Bob Cornwall said...

Dave, just to add to what I said in the previous comment -- I went back to the TCU Web site -- http://www.troycitizensunited.org/index.html. A couple of things that stand out. First and foremost they suggest that our taxes will go up about $300. If this is passed. The reason for the election is that housing values have decreased, so taxes will decrease. If they want to say that taxes will increase, then they need to first take into consideration the large decrease.

Second, in terms of percentages the taxes are lower, but the higher home values means that our taxes paid are higher. That's the problem of having a higher value home!

Finally, as to political gain -- I see this whole thing as being part of an intramural Republican battle for control. I'll admit that as I'm a moderately liberal Democrat I'm not in the majority here anyway.

Anonymous said...

Lies, damn lies, and statistics... as a banker I know all about how to spin numbers and how they can be spun.
My outside observer question is.. will the new tax rate be accompanied by a new tax value assessment? If not, then I would argue you are both right and wrong. If the base doesn't change, then it is in fact a big increase. If you do reassess.. and reassess honestly, then it could be a major decrease.
Frankly, if someone offered me tax value for my home it would be sold!
Chuck

Pastor Bob Cornwall said...

Chuck,

In Troy the taxable value of a home is one half the assessed value. Therefore, a 200,000 home, which is probably the median price, is taxed at 100,000. The expectation, and the reason for the millage, is that the assessed (and thus the taxable values) will go down significantly this year. Thus, most home owners, as I've been told by the city's mayor, will see a significant drop in taxes. With the millage increase we should see a small increase over this year.

Anonymous said...

Its 29% more money that the city will get.

Yes, I know, it's not a 29% increase in my taxes, and probably my taxes will go down, but, in fact they won't go down as much if the millage passes.

Why does the city need 29% more?

The city plays funny games with the numbers as well. One of their positions is that a 10% wage concessions won't fix the problem, then they go on to say that even a 5% conession would only yield approximately 2 million in additional revenue, but that doesnt address the FIVE YEAR 20+ million number. So, are they saying that they would give the 5% BACK in year 2, 3, 4 and 5? How does that math work?

Anonymous said...

For a more detailed explanation of the 1.9 increase, go to the city website troymi.gov There are also answers to many of the questions.

I have to argue about the Republican battle for control. Unfortunately there is a group of Republicans that are a stain on the party. Their behavior can be compared to the bullies on the playground. That being said, I know of many Republicans that are concerned with the future of the city of Troy and will be voting in favor of this minimal tax increase.

Anonymous said...

That's right, drink the Kool Aid, by going to the city website.

Its all about job preservation. They (the city administration) could care less about the level of service. And they are trying to scare the residents into believeing the 1.9 increase is the only way out.

They want their jobs, and their staff to remain intact.

The bad news is that even if the thing passes the job losses will still need to happen.

And I'm proud to say I know a number of people who will be voting NO on the millage increase.

John said...

Pastor Bob, Thank you for sharing your very accurate assessment of the millage situation. I can understand everyone's frustration with city governments, but this really is a no brainer. The millage is needed to stem the loss of revenue from decreasing property taxes. It is NOT a 29% tax increase, but more like 3%. At approx $38 or so dollars, that is a small price to pay to maintain the Troy quality of life. As the saying goes..."Pay less now...Pay more later". In Troy, you get what you pay for..there's a reason why you want to call TROY home! Please VOTE YES on February 23rd!

William Cowger said...

The assessments will go down by 12% next year, and probably 10%, 6%, 5% and 4% in each succeeding year. We are facing a 40% tax cut over the next 5 years and the city will receive that much less in revenue. Because we are the best run city (safest, most liveable, highest rated services) with the lowest millage rate in southeast Michigan, the needed bump percentage is greater than neighboring cities.

The important point is that tweaks in benefits, salaries, and minor cuts will not solve the problem. 1.9 mils is not enough... the city will lay off another 90+ people over the next 5 years even if the millage passes.

We can preserve what we have without it costing us any more out of pocket than it did in 2009. Over the following 4 years we will get another 20%+ tax cut because assessments will continue to drop.

Save Troy.... Vote Yes !

Anonymous said...

This is still a 29% increase in the millage tax rate, regardless of the way it is interpreted. The effect of this tax increase will be minimal because of the devaluation of the tax base (AKA the value of property is reduced). The overall net effect of the millage increase will be pretty minimal today, but what happens when our property value returns to normal. When that happens and people are paying an arm and a leg for taxes they will think twice about this time. The economy is down, our property is worth less, and in general people have less money. WHY PAY MORE, WHEN WE HAVE LESS! The city of Troy needs to find ways to reduce their budgets, and not TAX it's residents.

Pastor Bob Cornwall said...

Anonymous, remember that this is only for 5 years, and it can be rescinded by the City Council at any time if values grow and bills can be paid. As I understand it the millage rate we pay now is much lower than it was in earlier years, so I think we have good evidence that the Council understands its duties.

Also note that most of the neighboring communities can do this without vote.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Troy Citizens United are a bunch of wackos. I will never vote for Howrylak again for anything because of his connection to it.

How the heck is the city going to pay for anything when the taxes are way down now?

I loved the services that Troy provided, but I guess I can kiss that goodbye. Thanks a lot Troy Citizens United.

Anonymous said...

Check out
http://truthintroy.blogspot.com/

It's time to work together to resolve it's issues and maintain the quality of live venues that we need. We need to maintain our city so it continues to be a preferred destination and preferred place to call home!