Tax Revolt?

Property Tax Revolt I ran across the yard sign pictured at left quite a few times as I was driving through central Orange County today, particularly plastered along the strip-mall section of Hillsborough along Churton St between the two interstates. Something tells me these folks aren't interested in "revolting" by lobbying their state representatives to allow us to utilize alternative revenue options. Does anyone have any insight about the story behind the signs? Is this a grassroots effort or is there an existing anti-tax group sponsoring this?



that there are not any increases yet?

Aparently not.

Fred - it's a little ironic that your big point during the airport debates was that there was no airport sited for Orange County. Of course, even Chancellor Thorp acknowledged the reality of an airport siting by calling it off. Now you say it doesn't matter that there are not any increases yet?

First, there was no specific site selected as you and others seemed to imply.  Chancellor Thorpe called off putting together an airport board tasked with implementing a process to select a site.  That's very different from what you are saying he did. Do you think the Chancellor had a site in mind that he was personally cancelling?This "revolt" group is confusing many citizens by making it appear that revaluation and setting a tax rate are the same thing.  You know they are not. You also know that revaluations are not what makes your taxes go up.  Is this GOP/Dick Armey related effort trying to confuse people on purpose?Not really sure what your point is about what I said on February 16th.

An article in this morning's H-S explains the group that has placedthe signs and is leading the tax revolt.

From the Herald-Sun article: "Although the short-term goal is to shock the
politicians into action, Berger and his fellow protesters also hope to
stop tax increases, initiate tax decreases and even employ a statewide
cap on property taxes like those in California and Michigan."Anyone who has lived in California has experienced what their statewide cap on taxes led to and it isn't pretty - decreased services, crumbling infrastructures, huge budget shortfalls and the decline of what was one of the best public education systems in the country.  I have no problem with discussing how to keep tax increases down but statewide caps do not address the particular needs and wants of individual communities.

It would be interesting to map out in different colors what parcels values have increased more than the average increase, and which less.  Then we would know who gains and who loses. Will Chapel Hill bear a relatively higher share of the tax burden for the county, or less?  Hillsborough? Rural areas?  The same sort of mapping would need to be done within the CH-C school district and within the town limits to see relative shifts within those units..

As I thought, Mayor Foy notes"Homes in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school district, for example, went up by 29 percent, while those in rural Orange County went up less than 20 percent. If housing values went up at a higher rate in Chapel Hill than they went up in some other part of the county, then the cost of running the county is going to get shifted onto Chapel Hill. Everybody's nervous, and with good reason." Rural residents will benefit from the revaluation. At whatever county tax rate is set, more of the tax burden will be born in southeastern orange county, thus lowering percentage of total county taxes paid by the residents of the rest of the county. If a revenue neutral rate is set, residents of the area of the county outside the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school district as a class will find their property taxes dropping by two or three percent.Now, you'd have to do a separate analysis to see the tax shift within the Ch-Carr school supplemental tax district and within Chapel Hill and Carrboro, but I suspect that the more urban the property is the greater the property tax shift.So, the revaluations as a whole benefit rural residents.  To the extent that a tax increase above the revenue neutral rate happens this year (or a tax increase happens in any non revaluation year), the increasing tax burden gets applied in proportion to everyone's tax revaluation.  

And today the Governator is announcing the layoff of 20,000 state  employees.  Gerry Cohen, please correct me if I am wrong, but our state laws do not allow for citizen-initiated questions on the ballot, like the famous California Prop 13.There is one property tax reform that I think we should investigate, namely the Florida Homestead act, by which the property taxes (not the valuation)  on someone's principle residence cannot increase more than 3 pct (or some inflation index, whichever is smaller) until the house is sold.  This scheme does have flaws, but it keeps long-term residents from being taxed out of their homes.

There is limited availability of citizens putting questions on the ballot. A citizen petition of 10% of the registered voters could put on the ballot in Orange County a repeal of the local option sales tax, but not anything about property taxes.  On another tangent, the linked H-S article quotes opponent of taxes as saying the current system in Orange County is "taxation without reprsentation". I do not understand that. Property taxes are levied by local elected officials.

As someone who recently moved up here from Florida and still owns property there, I would advise you to do some more research on "Save Our Homes". It has created huge inequities that shift the tax burden to commercial and non-homesteaded property owners. Taxes vary wildly on identical homes based upon when the home was purchased. The property tax system in Florida is a mess and local governments, particularly school systems, are dealing with huge revenue decreases right now.

I can't complain about that.  I hope their campaign works.  Considering declining home values, maybe we shouldn't be revaluing property until things even out.

I spoke with Alice Gordon last night (she was at my precinct meeting).She said (I believe) that the tax office has been instructed to collect the same amount of taxes this year as last.  Since valuations went up, the tax rate will go down.My take away is this: if your valuation went up more than 25% (the average), then your taxes will go up;  if less, they will go down.-- ge

If you are a resident of Wake, Durham, Orange, or Johnston, Cumberland, or Mecklenburg County, you are invited to join a County Taxpayers Association group on LinkedIn. Wake County Orange County Durham County Johnston County Cumberland County Mecklenburg County Please see for more information. Wake County has had a Taxpayers Association for over 17 years and would be very happy to assist neighboring counties to start their own associations. Please email me if you would like additional information. dnewberry1@nc.rr.comDavid NewberryVice President - Wake County Taxpayers Association

these are your advisors? Douglas Lorenz a principal of the Republican Party-associated public relations firm Russo Marsh & Rogers (RM+R). He is also Advisory Board Director of the Republican Liberty Caucus, which describes itself on its website as "The conscience of the Republican Party".   Lorenz is also director of media and new technology at King Media Group, a RM+R mirror firm. Always good to connect the dots. "The Republican Liberty Caucus of North Carolina (RLCNC) is a grassroots organization working to advance the principles of limited government, individual liberty, and free enterprise within the Republican Party and throughout North Carolina. Key goals include creating an awareness of the issues and supporting pro-liberty candidates at the state and national levels. Our candidates focus on a broad range of issues, including taxation, property rights, gun rights, free speech, federalism and the proper role of government.Offering a home for smaller government Republicans within the party, the Republican Liberty Caucus helps avoid a potential exodus to Libertarian, Constitution, and other third parties; this weakening of the Republican Party could open the door for victories from leftist candidates pushing big government agendas. The Republican Liberty Caucus is proud to promote the Republican Party’s historic small government message."- - - - -  and that's what "dbnewberry" is about.(and Leonard Burton- is he here too?) 

... like a massive tax increase.   As I've mentioned here before, the BoCC is doing for the Orange County GOP what the GOP couldn't possibly ever have done for itself.  I firmly believe that the era of single-party rule in Orange County will end with the next election cycle.  No, there won't ever be a majority of Republicans, but at least there will be a voice for economic moderation.

"a massive tax increase" Has the County put forward a proposed tax rate for 2009-10?  I have not heard of any proposal from the manager.

Elected officials like to roll out the proposed taxes about a month before they are voted on. Doesn't give citizens much time to organize and respond. So organizing now looks like a smart move.

Inventor61 above says that nothing galvanizes the right like a massive tax increase.  I agree with his statement.  However, here in Orange County, it is the parents of the schoolkids who line up at the budget hearings to say that nothing is too good for little Johnny and if that means higher taxes, then we will pay them.In the H-S article, the tax-revolt group's spokesman described his group as "grayhairs", thus characterizing the dispute as the older versus the younger.  As someone whose little remaining hair is gray,  I find that unfortunate but largely correct.  In one of his biographies, I read that Ben Franklin was unusual in that, as he grew older, he became more liberal.  Chapel Hill and Carrboro probably have more Franklin types than most NC counties, but we are not immune to the age issue.In last year's transfer tax discussions and 2-1 failed referendum, it was the realtors associations, representing a mix of ages, who carried the fight against the tax.  I wonder if they will get involved on this issue.  

Generally speaking, most of these anti-local tax activists are big supporters of astronomical war-spending and corporate welfare policies. Rarely do any of these people have a realistic view of the big picture.

Mark,  I find your comment somewhat broad brushed.  I have in the past spoken of the high residential taxes of Orange County, especially southern Orange County and its impact a number of different demographics. The high level of services (necessity sometimes a subjective call) supported by the high taxes are certainly burdensome to some folks.  After retiring and being on a fixed income for several years I voted with my feet and moved south even though I would have preferred to stay where I was.Voters are certainly in their rights to approve of those taxes in exchange for the benefits (both real and imaginary).  But those high taxes when you look at the "big picture" have real consequences even though they may be unintended.  Since residential property owners make up 85% of the tax base solutions are really problematic.  Every service and tax expenditure has its constituency. Note: High tax rate plus the high assessed value of houses in Chapelboro are the real measure of tax burden.

We used to live in Corvallis, OR, another college town where everyone always voted for school funding measures. But that started to change in the 90s as the number of retirees went up and high home prices limited the number of new parents moving in. I was on a school-tax ballot measure campaign and watched an anti-tax group defeat us using the internet and lots of yardsigns just like those popping up around here. So, my advice is don't be too complacent about such movements.

I'm surprised by some of the characterizations here.  Why is the idea of citizens calling a meeting to discuss their mutual concerns about their property taxes considered problematic or not looking at the big picture?   If you have enough people concerned about a issue and organizing around the issue, then I would say that the issue deserves to be heard, whether you "like" it or not.    I know nothing about this group, but they are doing the same thing many other citizens do in this county---puting  an issue out there that is important to them to see how many other like minded people there are. We'll know pretty quickly after the 23rd just how "big" or "problematic" the issue is.   I'm pretty sure my  property taxes have increased every single year that I've owned a home (1985), and the toyal % increase is in excess of the rate of inflation or the increases in my parent's pensions or the increases in  my own income during the same time period.  Go back and read the recent analysis  in the local newspaper that a professor at Kenan Flagler did  if you want  more information.  This is a real concern for a lot of people and shouldn't be dismissed as just a bunch of "anti-tax gray hairs."     Many Orange County residents--young and old---- are about at the tipping point in terms of  their ability to pay more taxes or their interest in doing so, especially when it's unclear what the long term game plan is to effect any real change to the expected annual increase.  One year of holding taxes steady does not consitute a long term strategy or trend towards economic health.    And finally,   there are only two   "alternative revenue options"  which give the average homeowner any  true relief.  One is growing   the non-residential tax base and getting property on the books that is revenue positive to the county and can subsidize homeowners.  The second is growing sales tax revenues and  capturing discretionary dollars.    Neither of those require state approval.    

Anita:1) I personally welcome discussions about tax rates and spending.2) I find the use of the phrase "taxation without representation" offensive.  How are these folks denied representation?  James Pugh and his fellow Regulators took up arms against the British colonial government to demand accountability and fair taxation.  They suffered from taxation without representation and died for their standing up for themselves.  The present movement is an insult to their courage.

As a direct descendent of James Pugh's younger brother, I appreciate this comment honoring the courage of my family (although my Quaker ancestors weren't so kind when they disowned his father, a couple of brothers and at least one brother-in-law for participation).Start an association; put up signs! Revolution!Isn't out current governor from New Bern?  The historical parallels are eerie.

Anita - I haven't looked around LinkedIn  very much yet, but one of the first things I noticed was one blogger there referring to OrangePolitics as the Opium Pot. The characterizations here on OP are more respectful than those used by the folks you're defending. That aside, I do hope the anti-tax group get a discussion going. But judging from the tone of the Taxpayer Association's site, I don't expect it to be a fact-based, big picture discussion.

One thing I'd like to see here is some info on the tax burden over time. One good yardstick for examining public investments in schools can be found by comparing school expenditures as a percentage of the county's total personal income. I did this for the Corvallis OR campaign with Benton county data on personal income and state records on school operating expenditures over several decades. In 1970, school budgets county-wide were 5.6% of total personal income. By 2003, they had fallen to 2.9%.  I tried to apply this yardstick here, but the school records just weren't readily available. The point is can we agree on meaningful yardsticks and data sources? Or is it just going to be an brawl?

Anita, nothing in my two posts above indicates that the anti-tax group shouldn't be allowed to meet and present their views.  In Mark's and my years on the CH Town Council, we strongly encouraged public input.  There are few local governments in the country who receive as much public input as the council does.  As for the "grayhairs" comment, that was the group's own characterization, they way they chose to present themselves.You brought up the issue of increasing sales tax revenue, which has been discussed frequently since I've been involved in local politics.  During my debates with Mark Zimmerman over the transfer tax, he consistently argued that the transfer tax was bad, and that developments such as the proposed Buckhorn Village shopping center, would save the county's schools.  What he didn't do was the math.  The BV center, if it were successful enough to sell 90M of merchandise per year (its projection) would generate 400K of sales taxes per year for the county commissioners, and that revenue stream for twenty years would be enough to build one-ninth of one elementary school.  To build one elementary school, using all sales tax revenues for twenty years, would require the construction of nine BVs or six Southpoints.   I'm no expert on shopping centers, but I doubt if there are enough shoppers in the region to support that many shopping centers.  The problem here is that the bulk of the sales taxes go straight to the state government, which is funded by sales taxes and the state income tax. Like a number of posters above, I don't understand the anti-tax group's comment about "taxation without representation".

I too do not understand the "taxation without representation" comment. We all have a vote. And I had not heard about the name calling on that side. That is not OK. But my point is still that not everyone who is worrying about taxes is a gray haired Republican who doesn't support education. Many of them are seeing taxes price them out of their homes. If your home is paid for and your taxes rise more than your retirement check does, at some point you make some hard decisions. Is that our goal--to price out people who may be "house rich" but cash poor? (And maybe they aren't even all that house rich anymore either). I know our elected officials are concerned about the tax burden. But the fact that most of our electeds did not want an airport in Orange County did not keep the community from organizing about it. Even though the electeds have stated they don't want the waste transfer station on Rogers Road, the residents there still organize as a way to show their solidarity and commitment, give information to the constituents, and make sure people know they are serious. If this tax group is way out there a la California/Florida, then I don't think they will get much support anyway. That's not our community. To Buckhorn: Buckhorn Village's impact was not just a sales tax impact. It also proposed adding over 120 million dollars of non-residential, revenue positive, taxable property to Orange County's coffers, so it is not accurate simply to calculate its value in terms of sales tax. And finally: 15 years ago, when I worked in the real estate development circles, even then the Triangle area had WAY more retail space per capita than the national average for similar communities. We all talked about how highly developed ( or 'overdeveloped" if you want to call it that) the retail market was then and yet the average dollar revenue per square foot was still at or above the national average and continued to increase even as more space came onto the market. This area has defied the conventional wisdom for a long time when it comes to consumption and spending patterns. It will be interesting to see how this economc downturn impacts that data compared to other markets.

Anita's last paragraph is right on, that we are financially different from the rest of the state and country -- here's a major example:  The best thing for us about the Obama stimulus package is its 43 pct increase in the budget of the National Institutes of Health, as well as major increases for the Dept of Energy and National Science Foundation.  UNC-CH  now receives about 600M per year from these sources, and all the researchers and clinicians that I know have struggled against the cuts against science by the Bush administration.   Probably half of that money goes to salaries which ripple through the local economy, etc.etc.Having UNC and UNC Health care as our dominant employers renders irrelevant some of the statistics that are typically used to characterize a town, but allow us to survive national economic downturns.   Measured financially, UNC is less an  undergraduate educational institution than a research and clinical one.  What town in NC wouldn't kill to have a 1.4 B annual, recession-proof payroll within walking distance of its downtown?

Hey Joe,I sat down with Rep. Price yesterday to go over the stimulus package. The NIH, NSF numbers aren't known yet because they're contract and bid based and haven't been awarded yet. I'm waiting on the exact breakdown for the school systems, which should be available soon.Here's the link to the article.

Rural Orange County has been overwhelmed at the polls by the Chapel Hill- Carrboro vote for recorded history. Rural residents have historically been at a disadvantage when it came to representation on the County Commission. This contributed greatly to unnecessary rural-urban antagonism and fouled the waters constantly on policy debates. The Democratic Party insiders resisted reform for fair representation at every turn. Recently we had the tepid, lack-lustre change put forth by Moses Carey & others which marginally improves representation but falls short of what rural voters have wanted all these decades. So there remains a deep-seeded feeling of being disenfranchised. What the defenders of the status quo never understood is that when you allow fair representation, fair debate ensues and contrary views get their day on the table and are democratically resolved. The alternative is resentment and distrust, which has been a perennial problem in Orange County. It's gradually easing now with the "marbling" of the county by new residents and the slight increase in better representation afforded by the new system, but it's still there.

they just don't like the representation they have.  If that's their understanding of  "taxation without representation," then we have bigger problems.

If the BOCC had implemented the their own appointed commttiee's recommendations of 1993. Then we would be pass the "taxation without representation" arguement. It does not surprise me that those living in Chapel Hill/Carrboro don't get the taxation without representation feeling in the ruual county. The only thing we are good for is your unwanted projects i.e. trash, airport, reservoirs and etc.

Your trash has gone to a landfill in Chapel Hill for the past 30 years.

Mr. Ross, when it was built it was in the rural part of the County. Why don't we put the WTS and WTE over at Carolina North?

I have no beef with your beefs about the WTS, E and F, but playing the urban/rural game gets us nowhere.  When the Eubanks Road landfill was built, it was a mile or so from Chapel Hill High in a growing suburban/exurban area. The people who live there tend to self-identify as Chapel Hillians.Yep, it was farmland some time ago. Few places around here weren't. I used to live in the old Pritchard farmhouse. From the front porch I could hit Rosemary Street with a small rock with little effort.BTW, the previous landfill was at Carolina North.    

Mr. Ross you are a perfect example of those who live in town and do not understand the rural viewpoint. Everything is at your fingertips where in the country it is not. As for trash I can point out where the trash was put on the family farm BEFORE local government came along with its landfill.


Except I'm pretty sure that Kirk lives in the unincorporated part of the county (not "in town"), so what are YOU an example of?Perhaps (as I said to another commenter last week) you can find a stronger basis for your opinions than the apparent location of someone with whom you disagree?

I live in uninc. now, lived on Dodsons for 5 years and off 15-501 in Chatham for 8, above Cliffs for 2, Pritchard Ave and Short Street for 2. I like taking pictures of flowers and long walks on the beach. What the heck were we discussing anyway?

Mr Ross, it would appear that you have not put your roots down in one place very long. As for the long walks on the beach is that beach in North Carolina or somewhere else? How many others on this group are new to the area say less than 10 years and why did you move here? I moved here almost 25 years ago when I married a true local girl.

I've only been here 65% of my life.

First, arguments about credibility based on who was here longest or who was here first eventually regress to what the cavemen would want.  Unless there's a larger cavemen/women constituency than I think there is, we have to find more contemporary and rational bases on which to make community decisions.   Second, the rural-vs.-intown antagonism is unfortunate and misdirected.  At core, residents of each, ultimately, have to appreciate the nearby presence of the other as part of the life and attraction of this area generally, and Orange County in particular. However, when there's an problem that prompts formation of factions (say, a waste transfer station or an airport), it can turn things into ugly, non-constructive, community conflict instead of an sincere, constructive search for answers. "Not-in-my-backyard" becomes "in-your-backyard" or worse, "in-your-backyard-because-you-tick-me-off."  Even if the attitude feels good temporarily and seems to serve one's own "backyard," in the long run the divisions cancel each other out -- distracting the antagonists from what's actually going on at the decision-making level and depriving them of whatever political power they might have had.  We can't afford that.  

for feeling powerless in the rural areas. I posted something to this effect a few days ago.A lot of urban voters don't tend to understand the unfairness of county representation down through the years. The resentment is real. 

Not saying the history isn't there and the resentment isn't real. In fact, I'm saying it's all too real and in danger of supplanting effectiveness, both short-term and long-term.  If there's a problem with representation, it should be solved by means other than tossing trashtalk in other neighbors' backyards, especially when you might want their subscription to your cause.

Again I will state Ms. Murphy that the 1993 BOCC own appointed committee made recommendation to the Board to correct the representation issue and the Board put the report on the shelf because they didn't like the results. At least two other times there has been efforts to adderss the issue with little if any results.Those who move to the rural area quickly learn how powerless and voice less they are. Even when they have a local commissioner from their township, that commissioner knows who elected them i.e. CHapel Hill Township voters.

Mr. Poppalax: Entrenched resentment, noted. Holding all of Chapel Hill responsible, noted. But I repeat: unfortunate -- guilting and browbeating never did work all that well, hard to remain sympathetic when under fire. I guess the answer is that no you don't have any substantive criticism of Kirk's points?



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