When More Taxes Are Good (4/14/09)
If you visit any thriving American downtown these days, chances are you won't see a huge number of surface parking lots. Why? Because a fair property tax valuation makes such a wasteful use extremely unprofitable.
The people in charge of that here are working on it, but so far the progress has been slower than it should be. That's why so many of our key downtown parcels are nothing but vast, unsightly islands of asphalt that take up extremely valuable space where new developments could add to the area's density and vitality.
If the property taxes on these lots fairly reflected their true market value, their owners - many of them absentee landlords -- would have an incentive to either develop them or sell to someone who would. But since they don't, there's no reason to expect the status quo to change.
And we all lose in that deal, because we're not only missing out on the opportunity to give our center city image another big boost, but we're passing up a logical source of new revenue when our schools and other worthy public services are facing huge budget cuts.
I'm not one to casually recommend tax hikes. But in this case, the only ones who'd be affected have been woefully undercharged for decades -- and their gripes would be far outweighed by the benefits that would be realized by practically everyone else.
But what do you think? Call and let us know.
I'm Bill Lamb, and that's my...Point of View.