Wednesday, March 25, 2015

In some respects the property tax is the best tax.  When a town sets a budget it knows exactly how much it will need from the citizens (the tax levy) and no other tax method can produce a specified amount as this can.  But is the property tax fair to all property owners every year?

By valuing all property, a rate can be set to produce the tax levy. 

Until 1998, revaluations were required once every 10 years.  Back then some towns revalued even less  often and some tax assessors were actually unable to tell me the date of their last revaluation.  But towns still collected the required tax levy every year.

During those early years property values remained fairly stable and most people saw their taxes change in step with the changes in the budget. But things changed dramatically in early 2000 and property values escalated.  People were buying property at increasing values and being taxed on older assessments.  Property owners rightly felt this was unfair.

The solution was to require triennial revaluations. New owners would now pay taxes based on fair market values.

But what was the impact on the rest of the property owners? Were their property tax increases used for the tax levy or for something else?

Let's imagine that one year, say 2007 which was a revaluation year, North Kingstown did not increase its tax levy.  NO tax increase.  The taxes would have looked like this:

For residential properties up to $100K the average tax would have increased 64.5%
For residential properties from $100K to $200K the average tax would have increased 13.6%
For residential properties from $200K to $500K the average tax would have decreased -0.4%
For residential properties from $500K to $1M the average tax would have decreased -5.4%
For residential properties from $1M to $5M the average tax would have decreased -11.6%

In 2007 owners of the lower priced properties would have received large tax increases which did not go to the town but merely lowered the taxes of other tax payers, in this case the owners of more valuable properties.

How can anyone call this fair?  We can have a system that taxes both new and existing owners fairly every year.  There is a solution. 

For more see R.I.G.H.T.

Monday, January 26, 2015

In the  Washington Post, November 26, 2014 Joann Weiner writes “The evidence is overwhelming. Diversity – gender, racial, ethnic, whatever – is good. Companies that put a priority on innovation are worth more when women hold top leadership positions. These companies are $44 million more valuable, on average, according to a multiyear academic study of Standard and Poor’s top 1,500 firms.”  But is diversity the real reason?

I believe when women get those leadership positions they must be more aggressive, more talented and more qualified than the men who had held those positions. This is still a man’s domain and I suggest that these women are just better in their jobs and that diversity alone has little to do with the success of those companies. They have better managers.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Global warming, real or fake?

There has been so much in the news about global warming and whether it is real or a hoax.  My opinion won't change any minds but I'd like to suggest the following to help us make a sensible and beneficial choice.

The argument swirls around which side is right, the climate deniers or the climate scientists. I suggest that we instead use a different approach: the consequences one side or the other being wrong.

If the believers get their way but are wrong, we will have spent multiple billions of dollars on non-polluting renewable energy sources at the cost of huge financial burdens on current energy suppliers. But we will have a higher quality of air and water and thus will our overall quality of life benefit. Oil imports will plummet reducing or eliminating the influence of mid east oil on our economy and foreign policies.

On the other hand, if the deniers prevail but are wrong, we will have saved billions of dollars, but rising waters will devastate shorelines throughout the world, temperature extremes and severe weather will continue to increase, ocean temperatures will rise, marine and animal life will be significantly affected with major extinctions likely. Agriculture will be severely altered increasing the likelihood of mass starvations worldwide.

Perhaps this simple thought exercise might help some to decide which is the better choice.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Exactly what's the problem?

Here on the beach we have a wonderful facility for our citizens.

To keep things clean we have a sign posted:

This morning I was walking along the beach and came across this lovely sight.

It wasn't dogs. Should we modify the sign?

Monday, March 24, 2014

How are we doing?

In an article about Rep. Gordon Fox's resignation in the Providence Journal, March 24, Rep. Nicholas Mattiello was quoted as saying that his "biggest concern is uniting and unifying the House".  Is that necessarily a worthy goal? In 2013 one party held 93% of the House seats and it's been this way for too many years.

I'm an independent voter and it seems to me that such a dominance of one party over the other makes for a greater chance for poor government not better government, regardless of party.

I'm reminded of Ed Koch, ex Mayor of NYC, who used to ask "How am I doing?"  I too have to ask, "How are we doing"?

Friday, March 14, 2014

Must be hard to be a lawyer.

In the Journal today (March 14, 2014) was an article, "Mother of molested teen urges change  in assault law". It seems there was a "loophole" that allowed her son's attacker to get off because there apparently was no "surprise" when he reached into the boy's shorts and touched his genitals as the boy was taking pictures on the East Bay Bike Path.

The new law might now enable conviction if the state can prove one "engaged in a sexual act against a person's wishes through force or coercion or through surprise for the purpose of sexual gratification".

Please forgive me for being so radical but isn't engaging in sex against a person's wishes enough? The perpetrator has to surprise the victim and be gratified too?  Are we crazy?

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Pesky facts

Facts can be funny things.

“Minimum-wage hike = minimum sense”, Jay Ambrose’s  Providence Journal on December 6, 2013, got me thinking about how we react to what we are told are “facts”.  Some “facts” in the article:

   FACT: ”... under 3% of the workforce get the minimum wage”. 

This implies that it really wouldn’t wouldn’t be such a big deal. I think it would be a pretty big deal to those 4.6 million people.

   FACT:... “Hike the minimum wage and some people do get more, but others get fired or get fewer hours a week.”  

Maybe a fact but can’t we do better? Perhaps we could lower the exorbitant executive salary increases somewhat instead of firing the low end workers and moving business offshore.

   FACT:   “In the end, the minimum wage is a charade that interferes with rights of employers and employees to enter into contracts of their own choosing.”

This implies that both employers (Walmart) and employees (minimum-wage workers) can bargain on an equal footing. Does anyone really believe that?

   FACT:  “During the same half century since the March on Washington, more than a score of major studies have verified that basic economic theory is right: The more businesses are forced to pay, the less likely they are to have as many jobs as they used to have.”

Indeed. But they do manage to see that top executives’ pay has never been higher, and even if a CEO is fired he or she often leaves with astronomical benefits packages. Ah, that basic economic theory.

Facts can be funny things.


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Will we ever get smart?

Shortly after the horrendous Newtown massacre the head of the NRA suggested that the only answer to a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. It’s all too easy to take complex and serious problems and try to solve them will simple minded answers.  Let’s look closely at this almost childish response which has become a mantra among the NRA supporters.

Since 1966 there have been 22 incidents of mass murders.  In no case did the perpetrator escape. In eleven cases the perpetrator committed suicide, in seven cases the perpetrator was killed, and four were either found mentally, incompetent or sentenced to death.

In the seven cases where the “good guys with guns” killed the perpetrator, there were 103 innocents killed.  Sounds like a terrible price to pay for the NRA’s solution of bad guys with guns.  

The answer to bad guys with guns is bad guys with no guns.  Background checks, background checks, background checks.  What's wrong with us?

Friday, May 24, 2013

Is it Any Wonder?

There has been much in the paper about property taxes lately, mostly regarding the impact of revaluations  on tax payers. There's a good reason, and it's not the size of the budgets alone.

Take a moment and follow this scenario:

Town A did NOT increase the tax levy one year.
But it had it's required revaluation, resulting in:
Property Owner Smith's taxes increasing $8,500
Property Owner Jones's taxes decreasing $8,500
The town did NOT receive more taxes.

In effect, owner Smith paid $8,500 to lower Jones' tax bill by $8,500. Can you see that a revaluation creates tax increases (and decreases) for large numbers of tax payers that have nothing to do with budget needs? If you see nothing wrong with this, stop reading.

Is it any wonder the thousands of property owners are upset with property taxes?

Slashing budgets, cutting services, juggling tax rates among owner occupied properties, non owner occupied properties, small businesses, large businesses, using different formulas for revaluations, none of these gets the the root of the problem - the UNFAIR DISTRIBUTION of the tax levy burden.

We do it this way because we have always done it this way.  Is this really the best we can do?

It's way past time to take a hard look at property taxes and to devise a better, less costly, more efficient system where all property owners pay only their fair share of the tax burden, whatever it is.

Please visit the Rhode Island Gets Honorable Taxation website and let your voice be heard.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Guilty and Not guilty

From today's Providence Journal:

"Lawyers for Colorado theater shooting suspect James Holmes formally told a judge Monday that he wants to change his plea to not guilty by reason of insanity after outside experts diagnosed his mental illness."

If everyone agrees that an act was committed (the definition of guilty) by someone does it make any sense to say that the act wasn't committed, yet isn't that what the above verdict says?

I've always thought that instead of Not guilty..., the plea should be "Guilty by reason of insanity", but I'm no legal expert.