Taxes, spending and us

Recently we received our PROPERTY TAX BILL from the New Hanover County Tax Office in Wilmington, N. C. The bill includes a lot of information; the first line warning DUE ON OR BEFORE MONDY, JANUARY 6, 2014. OK, that gives us four months to get the money.

Next, we’re informed it’s IMPORTANT to read the notice CAREFULLY, FRONT AND BACK. Then, we’re advised “How to pay your bill”—credit and debit cards ARE NOT accepted; CASH OR CHECK ONLY.

I’m tempted to take one-thousand, one-hundred and twenty-two one-dollar bills and thirty-one pennies in a brown paper bag to pay the bill; probably not a good idea—the police might think I’m a drug-dealer and confiscate the money and our property—one way they have to buy more assault weapons, military surveillance paraphernalia, and helicopters.

There was good news on the bill. Our property tax dropped $234.62 less than the bill we paid in 2012. There’s also bad news. Our Real Property Value has plummeted by $77,284. Oh well, easy come, easy go. Guess who caused the “housing bubble” to burst? Hint: It wasn’t those of us who own or bought property.

Following the important instruction to read both sides of the tax bill CAREFULLY, I looked at the back of the page. At the bottom below blocks of fine-print titled: General Information, Payment Information (redundant) and Additional Charges & Collection Procedures was another ominous message. “Delinquent taxes will be collected through garnishment of wages, attachment of bank deposits, levy on personal property and foreclosure on real property.” Can they do that?

You bet! And if you don’t pay up on time your lawlessness will by “advertised in March.” Further if your check bounces (or, I assume, should you pay in counterfeit cash) you’ll be charged 10 percent of the amount—minimum $25, plus additional interest and penalties (including “criminal” penalties) as written in North Carolina General Statute 105-357(b)(2).

And in case delinquents have overpaid tax returns expected from the N.C. Dept. of Revenue, forget about it. Thanks to a state “Debt Set Off” program, the Revenuers will send their money directly to the Tax Collector.

Anyway, I took particular notice of a table and pie-chart showing: HOW YOUR COUNTY REVENUE IS USED. The largest percentage of our property tax goes to “Education”—26.9 percent in 2014. It went down from 36.8 in 2012, but a new line labeled “Education Debt” showed 11.5 percent, taking a big slice out the county’s spending pie chart (and our earnings).

So the direct education cost to county property owners is 38.4 percent of their tax bills—nearly 29 percent of that is imposed because county officials borrowed huge amounts and burdened us with additional debt. They’ll say we voted to approve this—shame on those who did.

Of course, property tax isn’t the only source of education revenue. Millions of dollars more come from other local, state and federal revenue barrels. What student learning benefits we don’t get from this massive social “investment” is a sad tale for another time.

According to our property tax bill we pay another 6 percent on more “Debt Service”—a total of 17.5 percent of our property tax is “used” to pay for money borrowed by county officials. And it gets worse, another nearly 12 percent of our property tax is spent on “General Government.”

Maybe it’s time we demoted General Government to Private Government and fund him with the appropriate pay scale.

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About R. E. Smith Jr.

Mr. Smith writes essays and commentary on politics, American history, environment, higher education and culture. He's been published in print media and at blog sites for about 25 years. Smith's formal education includes B.S. and M.S. degrees from the State University of New York and Syracuse University. He has earned a 21-credit hour Certificate in Professional Writing from the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. Training/work experience: NYS Ranger School; U. S. Army, Corp of Engineers; soil scientist and forester with USDA; Assoc. Professor at SUNY; real estate agent; small business owner.
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