Detroit suffering death by property tax – or lack thereof

“It’s like we’re stuck in a local depression,” Roseville City Manager Stephen Truman said Monday. “The loss of property taxes is that staggering.”

Over the next two years, Roseville and other cities, townships and counties expect tax bases to drop by 20% or more.

Detroit Free Press, Feb. 2, 2010

So then the question becomes, is that light at the end of the tunnel just one train, or is it the first of many to come?Whatever scraps of flesh that are still left quivering on the tracks after the first series of cars finishes running us over will surely be scraped clean by the long line of iron horse grim reapers coming behind for cleanup duty.

How the hell are we supposed to get out of this?

In Michigan – and in most other states as far as I know – property taxes are the lifeblood pumping through the veins of the entire economic system. Our public safety depends on property tax revenue, since it provides the bulk of funding for police and fire. Our public education system (such as it is, in Detroit) is dependent on our property tax revenue. So much of our local government is dependent on property tax revenue, which is why we’re starting to see various government offices shutting down on Fridays. Sure, there’s the haggling with the unions and all of that, but the reason behind the haggling is that the well is running dry, and the reason the well is running dry is because property tax revenue is running dry.

How the hell are we supposed to get out of this?

Here in Detroit, although Sheriff Warren Evans is said to be getting a pretty good handle on the crime issue, crime is still a serious issue that is a long way from being a Mission Accomplished. And unless something can be done to stem the tide of desperation, I suspect Sheriff Evans is soon to be up against something the size of which he will simply not have the resources to deal with. And that will be the day when all hell really will break loose.

As for the public schools? They’re  fucked up. It’s just that blunt, ugly, and to the point. There  really isn’t a more precise way to describe the current condition of our schools, except for a precious few. This is not to be misconstrued in any way as to imply that it is the kids who are fucked up because that is the farthest thing from the truth. The kids are doing their best to survive given the hellhole they have been left to sink or swim in by their good friends the Adults. It’s almost to the point where whatever the kids do, I have a hard time blaming them because, I mean, damn. How exactly would I act if everywhere I turned there was nothing to look at except for more evidence that nobody gives a good damn about what happens to me?

And yes, strange as it seems, this all does come back to the mundane issue of property taxes. I say ‘mundane’ because property taxes and declining  real estate values are not the kind of  ‘sexy’ issues like crime in the streets and mayhem in the schools, and yet they are precisely the issues that may have more to do with resolving these twin dilemmas than anything else. Because if we lose our tax base then we lose our economic foundation, and if we lose our economic foundation then the bottom falls out, and if the bottom falls out…

How the hell are we supposed to get out of this?

SHAMELESS PLUG: Read my wife’s blog @ The “D” Spot Redeux


~ by Keith A. Owens on February 16, 2010.

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