Fees, sales tax offset property tax drop

THE 2017 TAX BILL property owners will be receiving sometime in the next month or so will be carrying a mixed message.

On the one hand, property owners should see some sort of decrease in the total property tax bill portion of their bill, as most local governments and school districts, as well as the county, have lowered their property tax rate in their 2017 budgets, however slightly.

On the other hand, many municipalities have added or increased fees that are included on the property tax bill. And the county adopted a one-half percent sales tax that goes into effect Jan. 1, which means that, next year, all county residents will be paying an additional half a cent on every dollar they spend on taxable items.

In the city of Plymouth, for instance, residential property owners will see an increase in the garbage collection and recycling fee that is added to their annual property tax bill.

The garbage fee will go from $24 to $32.39 per household and the recycling fee increases to $28.50 from $19. It’s part of a plan adopted by the City Council earlier this year to gradually increase both fees over the next decade until homeowners are paying the full cost of their garbage collection each year – something commercial and industrial customers already do.

Garbage and recycling collection costs are one item that, under state law, municipalities can pass on to residents via the tax bill and most in the county and the state already do.

Proceeds from the county sales tax, meanwhile, will be earmarked only for highway and other transportation projects, with a portion of the money received being shared with all of the cities, villages and towns in the county for them to use for highway projects as well – something no other county in the state that has a county sales tax does.

The bottom line is that, while local governments and school boards have done yeoman-like work holding the line on spending and taxes – in no small part thanks to the state-wielded whip of spending caps and limits – the cost of providing the government services we want from our county, city, village and/or town continue to go up, like so many other things in our daily lives.

All around, local boards and councils are doing their best to keep costs – and taxes – down.

The city of Plymouth has stuck to its policy of paying for bigticket capital projects out of city funds and not borrowing for them, as the city did too often in the past. In the long run, that means the city will be reducing its borrowing and debt payments, which in turn keeps the property tax levy from soaring.

Indeed, City Administrator Brian Yerges informed the council that, at the current pace, the city could be entirely debt-free in another decade or so.

At the county, payroll costs have decreased over the past decade as officials have striven to continue to provide service at expected levels more efficiently and cost-effectively.

Still, costs continue to rise for many aspects of local government and some of those costs are passed on to the taxpayers – something we’ll all learn when we open those property tax bills that will come in the mail soon.

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