Property taxes to fix city streets

April 16, 2008 11:00 pm

To the editor:

The Herald's editorial of the 15th does a good job of describing the difficulty of funding the maintenance of City streets. Those improvements, along with the City's water and sewer systems, are indeed public investments that must be maintained.

A "user" fee such as a gas tax seems like a reasonable idea but, as you point out, it places some of our businesses at competitive disadvantage, adds an administrative burden, requires the City to create an enforcement mechanism and, most importantly, does not generate sufficient revenue.

You suggest charging each household and business a flat monthly fee. This begins to spread the cost but is still inequitable. Why should a homeowner with 50 feet of frontage pay the same as a homeowner with 200 feet of frontage? If a 10-unit apartment complex is doing business under an assumed business name, does the apartment owner pay $20 per month ($2 for each residence) or $4 per month based on a single business? Should the owner of undeveloped property enjoy the maintenance of the City's streets and arterials for free until there is a home or business on the property? The inconsistencies are many.

One method governments use to generate funds for the ongoing maintenance of infrastructure used by all citizens is an annual charge related to the assessed value of real property — a property tax.

Based upon a "best estimate" of the cost of annual maintenance, what would be the increase in property taxes per $1,000 of assessed value? Some will pay more than others but this method distributes the burden more equitably based on the value of all property and a factor of the benefits derived by each property. The mechanism to bill and collect such a tax is already in place.

The city's auditor should be asked to review the city's cost estimate, provide a comparative analysis of public versus private contracting, and report on the cost per $1,000 of the necessary tax. These monies must be dedicated and not co-mingled with the general fund.

Jim Van Duyn

Baker Cit