Starve the Beast

Cities and towns in my state raise revenue from two sources. The state sends them money and property taxes. To fulfill the state’s responsibility to educate everybody approximately at the same level the state adds more to the budgets of poor towns than rich ones. In my town much of the revenue comes from property taxes. These taxes are capped. A law passed a few decades ago limits tax revenues from rising more that 2.5 percent a year without going to the local voters and getting what is known as an override.

Costs, for the basket of goods that town buy, have risen faster than 2.5% for the vast majority of the decades since the property tax was put in place. The result has been that we have cut continuously back on the services the town provides. It has almost fallen out of living memory that we used to plow the sidewalks in town.

Some costs are rising so fast that they alone consume the entire 2.5%. Health insurance, in my town, consumed more this year.

We spend about half our budget on schools.

At the last school board meeting they discussed the option of eliminating 12th grade at the high school. They might just be able to met all the mandated requirements in 11 years.


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