Editorial: Why a tax increase might be a good thing
No new taxes.
There is a very good reason that this message resounds with voters of all kinds.
No one wants to give more of their money to anybody for anything. If you can fill your gas tank for the same price you are used to filling it for, that’s the most you want to pay. Less would be better. If you can buy your lunch for $5, you certainly don’t want to pay $6. If your electric bill is $100, it better not go up to $110.
Why should taxes be any different? Of course you don’t want to pay more this year than you did last year, or the year before, or ten years ago.
But there’s a good argument for doing so, and it goes back to all of those other things.
A municipality takes tax money and does things that need doing. Roads need to be fixed and snow needs to be plowed. Police need to drive those streets and fire departments need to have the equipment to respond to emergencies.
All of that, naturally, takes money. And all of that, naturally, tends to take more money this year than the last.
If the gas in your tank costs more, so does the gas in the snow plow and the police car. If your electric bill went up, so did the borough building’s or the township garage’s.
If your lunch costs more, so does lunch for the municipal workers, and just like you would like a modest, sensible raise in your pay for those cost-of-living adjustments, so would they.
Taxes, therefore, should go up just a sliver every year to cover those costs.
Every year, around November or December for municipalities and around May or June for school districts, as final budgets are made and these governmental bodies announce exactly what the tax increase or lack thereof will be, people start paying attention to those numbers. They want to know if the check they write this year will be more, and it makes them either angry or relieved.
What they need to be is engaged.
They need to pay attention to what their officials are doing with that money all year long, because that is when the decisions are made. Budget time is just when the bill comes due, and often that is too late to make changes.
We need to worry less about whether there is or isn’t a tax increase and more about what’s being increased and why and by how much. We need to go to meetings, read newspapers, raise informed voices and vote.
And if we all pay more attention to what is spent all the time, that accountability should end up being felt. It should also make us more aware of what expenditures are most important and which ones are more elective.
So yes, sometimes, a little more tax money is going to have to be on the table. But we have to make sure we’re coming to the table to understand why.