posted on May 18, 2006 00:02
Wake County Manager David Cooke wants to increase property taxes three cents. The way the politicians describe this type of tax increase, they say it’s “only” a $45 increase on a $150,000 home. Let’s look a little closer.
On top of Mr. Cooke’s three-cent tax hike, the Wake County Board of Education wants a 3.9 cent increase to pay for new school bonds.
That’s a total increase of 6.9 cents in property taxes. The current Wake County property tax rate is 60.4 cents. If these new taxes pass the rate will go to 67.3 cents – that’s an 11% tax increase in one year.
If you live in the city of Raleigh, the news is worse. City Manager Russell Allen wants to increase city property taxes four cents – so he can increase city spending 11%. He also wants to raise water and sewer rates 9%. And the City Council has already raised taxes on new homes 78%. And you’re still going to get hit with the school bond tax.
The City’s current property tax rate is 43.5 cents. A four cent increase, plus a 3.9 cents school tax, will raise it to 51.4 cents – a whopping 18% increase.
From 1992 to 2001, under Republican mayors, Raleigh never raised property taxes. Now, under Mayor Meeker we are staring at the second tax increase in three years. What’s driving all these tax increases?
Well, in Raleigh, city government has gone on an unbridled spending spree. Under Mayor Meeker the City Council is spending money like there is no tomorrow.
And the Mayor has the votes on the Council to go right on spending. He has two almost certain allies in Russell Stephenson and Thomas Crowder. And he has three less certain but friendly allies in Democrats James West, Joyce Kekas and Jessie Taliaferro.
The city has built, is building, or is funding a $215 million Convention Center, a $40 million underground parking deck, a $20 million Marriott Hotel, a million dollar downtown restaurant and upscale supermarket. The list goes on and on.
Even the Republicans have voted for parts of this spending.
In a way, you can’t really fault Charles Meeker. He seems to want to spend every penny he can lay his hands on, but he never said he’d do anything else.
The problem is the muted response of the Republicans. What happened to the days when there were Republican leaders like Tom Fetzer who spoke out against unbridled spending? Fetzer stopped a $90 million Convention Center dead in its tracks by rallying voters. Many of the new crop of Republican leaders actually voted for a Convention Center that cost twice that much.
It’s time Republicans stopped being rubber stamps to Charles Meeker and started saying no.
They may – and almost certainly will – lose a lot of votes in the City Council. They will make other Council members mad. But they may also make a lot of people – like the 64% of the voters who oppose raising taxes for school bonds – happy. And they may give them something they don’t have now – a good reason to vote for Republicans next year in the elections.
There are already encouraging signs. Republican Councilman Phil Isley recently proposed to cut funding for one of Mayor Meeker’s pet projects – the Triangle Transit Authority’s lite-rail boondoggle – rather than raise taxes.
It’s up to the Republicans to make Mayor Meeker’s spending spree – and his tax increases – an issue in the next election. No one else will do it.
They should start now.
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