The “Statewide perspective about property taxes” column by Gary Bunker in the Aiken Standard on Aug. 4 was quite interesting to read and evidenced a significant effort to locate relevant data and establish relationships between property taxes and economic health.
It was made clear in the column that statistical correlation doesn’t establish cause and effect and thusly conclusions should be tempered. Unfortunately, those reading the column might well forget that point. In my northern state experience, real estate tax rates – or millage – reflected budgetary requirements and total property value. Towns with wealthy residents who owned high valued homes only required low millage rates to meet their community’s budgetary needs. In these cases, the low millage rate did not bring wealth but rather the wealth led to a low millage rate. And the opposite was true, municipalities with lower wealth had lower value homes and thus (for the same budgetary requirements) a higher millage rate was necessary. It was also apparent that municipalities with lower personal wealth also were the same ones with higher unemployment.
In my opinion, cause and effect are very unclear so I take a view that it’s not the amount of taxes that’s the real problem but rather how well those taxes are used. Are they used efficiently and effectively? Do they provide quality services that support the entire community. When this occurs the community should thrive. Unfortunately, too often the opposite is true – our taxes are frittered away while we get little in return.
I believe Aiken is a wonderful community with a government that provides much for our taxes. If we are asked to provide more, I hope (and expect) it will be used wisely – if so, it will be to all our benefit.