Saturday, April 9, 2011

Logic and a Recent Charlotte Observer Editorial or: Navigating the Unknown

Earlier this week, the Charlotte Observer ran an editorial entitled “There Should Be Nothing Sneaky About a Tax Hike” excoriating Mecklenburg Board of County Commission (BOCC) Chair Jennifer Roberts.

Monday night (4/4/11), in a meeting with a group of CMS parents organized by the grassroots MeckFUTURE campaign, Roberts said that keeping tax rates flat when property values increase is not the same thing as raising taxes. The Observer parried: It’s raising taxes and doing so sneakily because it’s, um, not cutting property tax rates.

Wait, that didn’t come out right. Let me rephrase. Between 2003 and 2011, property values in Mecklenburg County increased by 7% or so, on average. The county knows that because they just did a revaluation, which happens every eight years, statutorily. Because the value of real estate has increased, overall tax receipts will increase if the county keeps the property tax rate flat. Keeping tax rates flat is the very definition of a tax increase, you see. Yeah.

If this happens, then it will be a tax hike that is absolutely inconceivable. And the BOCC is sneaky, because the tax hike will opaque. Opaque? Yes, I say, opaque! As in the opposite of transparent! It’s obviously...What? You require an explanation? Okay, people can investigate how their property was revalued, and the county discloses the rate and how it comes to that decision, but other than that, the megahugegigantic tax EXPLOSION is dastardly and underhanded and secretive and ¡“sneaky”!



I have read the editorial all the way through enough times (i.e. at least once) to absorb its crystalline logic, and as far as I can tell, the Observer’s considered editorial position is due to sophistry, fatuity, or just plain intellectual laziness.

Note that at this point, I’m not addressing the merits and demerits of increased tax receipts, simply whether Commissioner Roberts was being “misleading”. From what I understand, she was alluding to a 2005 article by John Hood of the conservative John Locke Foundation: “A failure to enact a revenue-neutral tax rate after property revaluation does not constitute a tax increase.”