Reappraisal Equals Redistribution Of Wealth

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Here’s a simple and accurate explanation of the Hamilton County property reappraisal results. 

Picture three adjacent property owners–you and your two next door neighbors. One neighbor to your left, one to your right, and you in the middle. Imagine that the county assessor gives one of your neighbors a tax break. That’s easy enough, just by juggling the new appraisals. 

Now, the reappraisal is required by state law, and it must be ‘revenue neutral’–the total amount of property tax collected after reappraisal must be the same as it was before. (Yes, it could be manipulated to produce less tax revenue than before, but we know that’s not gonna happen.) 

So, in the very personal case of you and your two neighbors, if one of them gets a tax cut then you and the other neighbor have to make up the difference. Either you, or the other neighbor, or both of you have to pay more taxes now because one neighbor will be paying less than before. 

On a larger scale, for the entire county, half of the taxpayers got a break this year. And the other half must pay for that break. You and your neighbors may all pay less this year, at someone else’s expense. Or all three of you may have to pay for the windfalls that others got. But whenever one property owner benefits, others will get a larger tax bill to cover it. 

Think about it. The people who work for the county assessor have absolute, unilateral, arbitrary and irresistible legal power to take money from one property owner and give it to another. It is the government version of robbing Peter to pay Paul. The county never loses, and Paul never complains. 

In real terms, the latest reappraisal took money away from half of Hamilton County property owners and gave that same money to the other half of them. Even if your taxes only went up $10, that $10 was taken from you by law and given to someone else as a gift. If that isn’t a redistribution of wealth, what is it? Even if it’s legal, it’s still wrong. 

Here’s an example straight from county records online: One fortunate property owner received a new appraisal of $469,500 – only $1,600 more than last year – while many others got appraisal increases of tens of thousands of dollars. The immediate effect for that one taxpayer is a $300 reduction in his county property tax this year. But the rest of us have to make up for the $300 he’s saving, and for thousands of other similar cases as well. 

Oh – guess which lucky property owner is directly associated with the Assessor’s office?  

Think about it. Half of us should be legitimately (although helplessly) angry, while the other half just smile all the way to the bank with our money. 

It’s not right. 

Larry Cloud
Chattanooga


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