WUI (Writing under the influence)

Somebody once said we are all Americans, sometimes born in the wrong places.
On a warm autumn day in 1986, while enjoying beer with my college buddies,
I decided to join my new homeland.

I've come to appreciate the ideals that helped create this great country.
Liberalism, political-correctness, multiculturalism and moral equivalence
are destroying it.

This old house Grovenet Wal*Mart Visiting Poland American wine better than French.

Saturday, December 04, 2004


Property taxes

I may have mentioned in passing that property taxes I pay in Oregon on a much bigger house are much smaller than those I paid in Madison.

Let's examine some numbers. First, the house I owned in Madison was (and still is) 1,297 sq. ft. + full basement and sitting on a 8,190 sq. ft. lot. Today's taxes according to the City of Madison Assessor web site are $5,517.82.

The house I have now is almost 2,000 sq. ft + full basement on a 15,000 sq. ft. lot. I just mailed my tax bill for the grand total of $2,861.01.

So for almost twice the house, twice the lot I pay half the taxes. Of course, one can say I may be paying more in other taxes, like sales or income. There are no sales taxes in Oregon, just income. But it is well known that for people in my income bracket Wisconsin is much worse state than Oregon as far as taxes are concerned (in fact, as everything else is concerned).

So why aren't property taxes rising as fast in Oregon as they are in Madison or other places in the country? By law (Ballot Measure 50), they can only rise 3% a year and the taxable base is much lower. For example, my house is valued by the county at $217,440 but the taxable base is only $165,960. Even if I remodel my house, as long as the value of the addition is not higher that $25,000 over a period of 3 years, the base will not increase. In other words, as long as I keep any improvements to the house below $25,000 in any 3-year period, my base stays constant (it increases by max of 3%).

The only other way to pay higher (than the 3% almost automatic yearly increase) property taxes is through ballot measures or bonds.

Every time I think about all of this because of articles like this one I wonder why would anybody still live in Madison or wouldn't at least revolt:

"Madison, Wis., is an example of how some of these changes are affecting both the town and some of its residents. Assessments climbed 9 to 10 percent for several years in a row as housing prices have risen, reflecting the city's buoyant economy. This is happening once more, so even though the city is actually reducing the mill rate (the multiple of property value used to determine residential taxes) from 8 mills to 7.8, property taxes are going up 5.5 percent.

"The city's rising property taxes are squeezing retirees Diane and Donald Brockman, who have lived in the same house for over 40 years. Now, the retirees estimate it takes them two full months of their fixed income to pay their property taxes.

"'We don't go out to eat, we don't go to theaters, we don't travel a lot,' says Mrs. Brockman, who worked as a operating-room nurse for 40 years. 'You have to give up your pleasures that you have worked all your life to do,' she says, suggesting that it might be appropriate for the community to give some kind of tax credit to them for all the years they have faithfully paid their taxes."

I thought it was only Republicans who forced old people to choose between food and medicine. It seems that the good Democrats in Madison are forcing them to choose between their house and the food and medicine. But while Republicans are cutting taxes to let individuals decide how to spend their money, Democrats are rising taxes for the higher good. Besides, they think people are simply too stupid to know what to do with their money in the first place.

In truth though, I'm not sure why anybody would want to stay in Madison in these circumstances. Just look at the pictures below and tell me that there is anything in Madison worth paying these outrageous property taxes.

So, can anything be done to lower taxes in Wisconsin. Of course. In fact, Doyle is trying to just that by laying off some state employees. But they are not going quietly.

"Tuesday during lunch hour, state workers skipped sandwiches and picked up picket signs instead."
I wonder why. The unemployment in Wisconsin is still much lower there than in Canada, their favorite country. Also, the low unemployment in Madison where most of them live is so low that they shouldn't have much trouble finding another job. But, of course, it is so much more comfortable to be living on state payroll than to actually compete in the real market place.

Of course, if Doyle and Cieslewicz (mayor of Madison), had any guts (and brains) they would introduce some competition to the public school system. And I'm not just talking about Milwaukee-style vouchers but full-blown privatization of public education delivery.

Mt. Hood Posted by Hello

Oregon beach Posted by Hello

How does that $217,440 compare to the actual market value of your house, and how does that compare to your purchase price? It looks like your old Madison place appreciated quite a bit since you've sold.

Looking at the story you quote, I'm sympathetic to old-timers with growing property tax bills. But it's also true that practically everyone with more than a couple years' tenure in a Madison house sits on a large gain in real estate wealth. Would they be better off less wealthy but with lower taxes? Not obviously!
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