Council May Raise Car Tax, Drop Real Estate Tax

City Council has asked City Manager Gary O’Connell to draw up a pair of budgets, one maintaining the $1.09 real estate tax, and one dropping it to $1.07, and also to look into raising the car tax to make up any shortfall. Assessments are likely to increase by 11% in the city, but that still leaves a $3.2M shortfall, because of a drop in personal property tax (because the state cut the car tax, which is really a local tax, without funding the difference) combined with legally-mandated expenditure increases. John Yellig has the story in today’s Progress.

33 Responses to “Council May Raise Car Tax, Drop Real Estate Tax”

  • madman says:

    The city’s personal property tax rate is $4.20/$100 of assessed value. Last year the personal property tax generated $8.7 million. To make up for a shortfall of $3.2 million the rate would have to go up around $1.50 Personal property tax is also collected on machinery and equipment owned by small businesses not just privately owned cars. Raising the rate enough to have a significant impact would place a huge burden on businesses. Does the city really want to give them another reason to relocate to the county? Or will they just raise the personal property tax rate a little and lower the real estate tax rate a little and then watch the money roll in as our assessments send our real estate tax bills sky high anyway?

  • IamDaMan3 says:

    it when people have cars. What just a second! I got them figure out. Raise taxes on cars then that will force people to use the bus and buy more vaspa.

    i got it!

  • madman says:

    Many anti-car activists claim that cars don’t pay as much in taxes as they generate in costs and Kevin Lynch is quoted in the Progress article as saying that he believes that cars are undertaxed. But if he thinks that he can raise the car tax enough to actually get people to give up their cars he is really fooling himself.

  • Big_Al says:

    Funny – I’ve never felt that any aspect of my life is "undertaxed."

    What "costs" is he referring to? Road repairs? Parking enforcement?

    Question: Does Mr. Lynch own a car?

    Also, how many of the City Council members own their own homes? Do any rent?

    I’m just asking.

  • Waldo says:

    Question: Does Mr. Lynch own a car?

    Like me, he owns a motorcycle. I don’t know about a car. (I recently came to own a car, to travel back and forth between Charlottesville and Blacksburg each week, and thus I’ve exited the vaunted realm of the carless.)

    Also, how many of the City Council members own their own homes? Do any rent?

    I’m fairly sure that all own their own homes.

  • Cecil says:

    "What ‘costs’ is he referring to? Road repairs? Parking enforcement?"

    Anti-car activitists might mean by "costs" environmental costs–air pollution (the social costs of breathing pollution, the increase in childhood asthma likely related to pollution, the costs of cleaning up pollution).

    They might mean the costs of accidents–taxpayers possibly bearing brunt of medical costs of people injured in car accidents and who don’t have insurance.

    They might mean the costs of the roads/highway infrastructure–repairing old roads, building new roads, paying salaries of cops to monitor/patrol/police roads, paying the state salaries of everyone employed by VDOT, the money for all those research projects into innovations like SmartRoads and all that stuff.

    Possibly all those things.

  • Waldo says:

    I would (and do) mean all of those things when I refer to that concepts. Automobiles are heavily, heavily subsidized, in all of the ways that you point out. People who gripe about subsidizing public transit generally don’t understand how much their auto lifestyle is subsidized.

    This is decidedly not studying for finals. I was writing out an equation sheet and now, half an hour later, I find myself here. What the hell happened?

  • cornelious says:

    is to examine the "shortfall".

    I admit I haven`t examined the budget proposal but I hope the "budgeteers" look at what will be unfunded and if perhaps it should remain that way.

  • madman says:

    A lot of the costs that you mention are somewhat indirect. Would you justify increasing local property taxes because of respiratory problems due to air pollution? If automobile technology changes and most cars produce significantly less pollution would you argue for a reduction in the local personal property tax?

  • Big_Al says:

    Technology has already provided significant reductions in automobile exhaust emissions. Relative to 1980 models, today’s cars are downright eco-friendly.

    If emissions are the issue, instead of hitting all cars with a tax, why not focus on the real villians, trucks and SUVs?

    But emissions aren’t the issue. Revenues are.

  • blanco_nino says:

    to pay for the task force to study which programs should remain underfunded.

  • Cecil says:

    Well yes, of course, they’re absolutely indirect costs–but they’re costs nonetheless, and they [have to] get paid somehow eventually. I think that critics of car culture/anti-car activists are making the point that you HAVE to consider indirect costs as well as direct costs when you assess the impact of something on society.

    I mean, if air pollution from automobiles DOES indisputably contribute to increasing levels of asthma among kids, for instance, and if our society has made a commitment to meeting the health needs of kids, even those who don’t have rich parents and great insurance, if we have that commitment, then we have to pay for it somehow, which seems to mean taxpayer dollars. And if it’s clear that the proliferation of cars has contributed in some significant part to this problem, then it seems not unreasonable to hold car-drivers partly responsible for paying for this mess they’ve created.

    Indirect costs, it seems to me, are exactly why we HAVE taxes. Because, for example, corporations aren’t held fiscally responsible for all kinds of negative situations that they contributed to significantly (if indirectly), then the bill has to go SOMEWHERE, since we’ve made certain commitments as a culture (that we’re not going to let poor children die in droves just because their parents have no insurance, that we’re not going to let ALL of our streams and rivers turn into garbage dumps, etc.). In short, we want certain things to be nice; corporations and individuals are not always held to account for contributing massively to the screwing up of those nice things; therefore, taxpayers pay for what someone else is not paying for.

  • Cecil says:

    "what will be unfunded and if perhaps it should remain that way."

    Excepting, of course, those budget items that are required by state and federal authorities and that we don’t have the liberty to just leave unfunded. Like, for example, anything having to do with No Child Left Behind.

  • Cecil says:

    "If automobile technology changes and most cars produce significantly less pollution would you argue for a reduction in the local personal property tax?"

    Ooo, forgot to respond to this part as well. If technology AND economic policies AND corporate behavior/practices AND everything were to change and all the direct and indirect negative impacts on people’s lives that these technologies and policies and behaviors currently produce were to disappear tomorrow, then guess what? I don’t think we’d need as many tax dollars as we do today. (Of course, the military would still suck up billions and billions of dollars, but most anti-tax grumblers don’t seem to mind, or know, how much of their taxes goes to the military.)

    In other words, as I said in my other post in response to madman, we pay taxes because we’re mostly paying to clean up messes that someone else didn’t clean up. Our health care/insurance system leaves millions of people out in the cold–if that system weren’t so crappy, maybe we wouldn’t have to pay so much. Maybe it would be cheaper, tax-wise, to set the system up right in the first place and make sure everyone has access to preventative health care–pay taxes for to ensure that access–rather than let them languish, never get preventative care, have a catastrophic illness, and then use tax $$ to pay for that. So I don’t think there’s an end to taxes in any civilized nation, but it does seem to me that if we would just do things right in the first place, use taxpayer $$ to take care of things before they become huge environmental or health or crime problems, it would cost us a hell of a lot less money and then we’d mostly be paying up the wazoo for the overpriced toilets that the military requires.

  • madman says:

    The bill for asthma has to be paid but the personal property tax in Charlottesville does not pay for asthma treatments.

    Your claim that drivers have created a mess seems to imply that they have willfully done so. Hogwash. I would happily drive a non-polluting automobile if they were readily available and affordable and I’d take the bus if it supplied the same high level of service that I get from my car.

    Taxes are collected to fund the direct costs associated with government. They are not collected to serve as a negative reinforcement tool or to punish people.

  • cornelious says:

    You are surely right, Cecil.

    I wonder what would happen if "localities" would take a very firm stand and say "no" to some of these unfunded mandates. It would be pure Hell for a while and I`m sure cause much inconvenience and probably hardship but perhaps a well thought out approach to resisting (read denying) these mandates might awaken the country if it was managed properly.

    The problem, only in part, is politicians who won`t take a stand which might jeopardize their political future.

    Am I suggesting rebellion – well, not really, but then again………………………………..

  • Cecil says:

    willfullness–that is, intentionality–doesn’t matter. consequences matter. i don’t INTEND to screw up the environment when I drive my 86 Volvo which doesn’t get great gas mileage, but whether I have good intentions or not, I’m driving a car that consumes relatively a lot of gas. We don’t live in a world where you get bonus points for having good intentions. We live in a world where there are consequences that have to be dealt with. My car pollutes more no matter how much I might whine that the bus doesn’t serve my needs in exactly the way that I find convenient.

    Taxes are collected to fund the direct costs associated with government? What does that even mean? They pay civil servant salaries; they pay for having a military (the people, the equipment, etc.); they pay for cleaning up messes that we’ve decided as a society that we can’t live with (Superfund stuff). If that’s a direct cost associated with government, than so is the cost of covering all those uninsured people when they have health care.

    I said nothing about taxes being a negative reinforcement tool or a punishment. All I said is that taxes end up covering the costs of all the stuff that individuals and corporations won’t or can’t pay for on their own. It’s a collective pot of money that covers stuff that we’ve more or less decided that we need.

  • blanco_nino says:

    if city council can pass a resolution stating that the city will not recognize the patriot act, then why can’t they vote to not fund these federally mandated programs? is it because they’re afraid to defy washington on something they know they’ll get called on (instead of a pointless resolution to make their left-leaning constituents feel a little bit better about living here and paying higher taxes)?

  • Cecil says:

    well, surely, there are some mandates handed down from on high that we should resist. No Child Left Behind seems to me to one example of something we’re being "forced" to comply with that isn’t worth it at all. But I object to that one not simply because it’s a mandate but because I think it’s unsound educational policy.

    Usually, there are penalties for noncompliance with mandates–you get no federal highway funds ifyou don’t do X, for example. That’s where the Hell would come in, I guess–we’d have to give up something in the resisting of the mandate.

  • Cecil says:

    this got mentioned in another post, but there’s usually consequences for disobeying a mandate–like your highway funds get yanked if you don’t lower your speed limit to 55 (years ago).

    With No Child Left Behind, the feds penalize school systems if they don’t comply. I think the penalties come in the form of fewer federal $$.

    snark on city council all you want, but the resolutions that you’re griping about didn’t cost us anything. if they did something that cost your kid’s school $$, you’d surely snark about that, too.

  • blanco_nino says:

    so i’ll snark all i want.

    regardless, if and when i have kids, they won’t go to school in c’ville or albemarle.

    maybe i’ll send them to one of those snarky day schools where the teachers let the kids out of class once an hour so they can sneak off behind my office building and smoke cigarettes.

  • cornelious says:

    Yes – we would be penalized and yes, that`s where the Hell would come in but just maybe we might do some good.

    I forgot to add perhaps if the traffic laws were enforced – and I mean all of them (if they are on the books – enforce or scratch them is my motto)including turn signals, improper high beams, stop signs, on and on we might have all the money we needed or perhaps better drivers, maybe both.

  • madman says:

    This was a discussion about local personal property taxes. You seem to be confusing that tax with federal taxes. While some federal and state tax revenue does end up in the local budget I am unaware of any locally collected tax revenue going into the federal budget. It is not exactly a "collective pot of money".

    You say your car is screwing up the environment and that negative consequence has to be dealt with. I think you mean that it should be dealt with by government. Are you suggesting that each locallity allocate some of the money in their budgets to solve the problems caused by air pollution? Or do you think that the federal government ought to be spending more money to solve the problem?

    I agree that air pollution is a problem and as was pointed out earlier by Big Al a lot of progress has been made by improvements in technology. I think that the federal and state governments have an obligation to require even stricter emission standards. There may be higher costs but those would be paid directly by the vehicle owner. If the state of Virginia required your Volvo to meet certain emission standards or you wouldn’t be able to drive it I bet that you and not the taxpayers would pay to solve the problems.

  • CL2595 says:

    The thing about it is they name these things so cleverly that if anyone was to come out against it then it makes them look bad. Everyone keeps talking about shortfalls in the education system but as someone who just left the K12 system a year ago let me tell you something… This new mandate isnt helping us learn at all…. All it does is emphasize test taking ALL YEAR LONG…. If anything was learned in high school its how to TAKE a test… not actually knowing information just "feeding [test graders] them what they eat"

  • urbanitas says:

    none of our local personal property tax goes to fund the military or any of the other federal issues you just mentioned. Does every discussion have to be about federal politics?

    At least you didn’t mention Bush or red and blue states.

  • Cecil says:

    I agree about the traffic laws–particulary on 250 Bypass! Jeez, the untapped potential money to be collected there just on speeding tickets alone. Why the hell do people go 60 straight through the bypass? NAIL THEM.

  • Cecil says:

    "If the state of Virginia required your Volvo to meet certain emission standards or you wouldn’t be able to drive it I bet that you and not the taxpayers would pay to solve the problems."

    This actually matches up perfectly with my argument–if we would just set up things ahead of time to AVOID the problems, then we wouldn’t have to pay out the wazoo for them later. But you know what? If the state tried to set stricter emissions standards that ruled out certain kinds of ridiculously gas-guzzling cars, you’d hear so much crying and protesting about how unfair and unjust and unAmerican that was. Note what has happened and not happened with strict emissions standards at the federal level.

    RE: local taxes–it’s still a pot of money, albeit a smaller one than the federal pot. My argument about What Taxes Are applies to taxes in general. The smaller local pot STILL goes towards paying in a collective manner for things that we supposedly want (good schools, roads, etc.) but can’t/won’t pay for individually.

  • Cecil says:

    it’s an argument about taxes in general–how they go towards covering things that the group (local, state, federal) wants in general to have taken care of. Military is one thing the federal government takes care of for us; schools are a thing that the local government partly takes care of for us.

    the analogy of taxes = payments for things we want/need but don’t/can’t provide individually stands whether you’re talking about state/federal/local.

  • Cecil says:

    since that doesn’t apply to the local government situation, how about police/criminal justice system? We’ve kind of agreed as a society that we want cops and jails. They gots to get paid. Who pays them? Local taxes go towards that. The state cuts back on the amount they kick in towards our jails/police system. Is it in our best interest to make up the difference ourselves? Seems so. I’m not really in a position to individually pay for a police officer or a jail employee. Seems like the collective pot of local monies is the way to go there.

  • Cecil says:

    my point was that maybe the reason they don’t courageously vote to ignore unfunded mandates is that the mandating power will punish the mandatee that disobeys. as in, maybe there’s a good reason instead of the cowardice that you imply guides their actions.

  • madman says:

    Earlier you said that indirect costs are the reason we HAVE taxes. Now your saying that taxes are to pay for things we have decided we want. I agree with that but completly disagree with your statement that indirect costs are why we have taxes. You are not alone though in your desire to tax people for reasons other than "bricks and mortar". So called sin taxes are used to try and manipulate peoples behavior. Many anti-car activists believe that gas taxes should be higher as a way to discourage car use.

    We agree that there is a problem with emissions. Do you think that revenue from the local personal property tax should go towards solving that problem? If so, how?

    Lynch said that he blieves that cars are undertaxed. It is true that cars do generate costs for roads, police etc. They also contribute a lot to the quality of life. If I had to depend on buses or some other alternative to a car to get around there would be a lot my family and I would have to stop doing. The contribution that cars make justifies some of the costs being paid by taxes other than those directly placed on cars.

  • Cecil says:

    geez–i’m just not saying this right, apparently.

    indirect costs are not sin taxes. indirect costs are negative impacts that result from individual/corporate actions but that the individual/corporation doesn’t have to pay for. the negative impacts are there nonetheless–pollution, bad health, etc. we END UP paying indirect costs through taxes for the clean-up/remediation of the problem even though, by some lights, it should have been the individual/corporation that created the negative impacts in the first place who ought to pay for these indirect costs. OR, who ought to pay a little more to set up their system so that the negative impacts don’t occur in the first place.

    if it were a sin tax, it would be applied to the SINNER, the corporation that polluted for example. but instead it is an indirect cost borne by the taxpayer.

    yes, cars are wonderful things that contribute to our quality of life. that is why we should not GRIPE about a personal property tax increase. if they’re so damn great, then why do we mind when someone asks us to pay A LITTLE BIT MORE to have this great thing?

  • madman says:

    Who said that indirect costs were sin taxes?

    Since you say we shouldn’t gripe about a personal property tax because cars are a good thing I take it that you agree with Lynch that cars are undertaxed. What costs that cars generate do you think should be paid for by an increase in the local personal property tax? BTW, a "little bit more" may be negligble to you but it matters a hell of a lot to my budget.

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