Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Tax revaluation: It's about fairness

We hope the new board of county commissioners will look more closely at the issue of whether to postpone the county tax revaluation. An Observer article today indicated a delay is likely.

It's about fairness. When property values change but the tax valuation doesn't -- and the last revaluation was in 2003 -- plenty of people in expensive houses that have gained in value get huge tax breaks for years. And plenty of people in hurting neighborhoods, where houses have lost value, have been penalized for years.

Who needs fair, up-to-date valuations more? People whose homes have lost value and yet who are paying as if their homes are worth more? Or people who've gotten thousands of dollars in tax breaks? That's the question county commissioners must answer. Remember, tax valuation is a different issue from the tax rate. Commissioners can, if they choose, adopt a revenue-neutral budget next year. That means some tax payers would pay more and others less, because of their property values. It doesn't mean tax rates rise, although people with rising-value property would, as is fair, pay more. But people whose property values rose only as much as the countywide average wouldn't pay higher taxes. And people whose property values rose less than the average, or lost value, would pay lower taxes.

Delaying revaluation will cause even more political and financial trauma when it finally happens. The county's previous plan to continue with revaluation this year, and then move to every two years is preferable. Commissioners should stick with that plan.