Saturday, August 2, 2008
The Article, The Notice, and The Explanation
Three items in Thursday's American Fork Citizen, about the proposed American Fork property tax increase. Where did that 46 come from?
The soup thickens as the August 5 hearing on a proposed American Fork property tax increase approaches. No comment seemed necessary as I began this blog post, just a little boldface type added to the following excerpts by your (humble) blogger . . . until I saw a problem, cornered a City official, and begged for further clarification. But first the excerpts, then my observations.
Item: News article in Thursday's American Fork Citizen, front page, above the fold. "A.F. clarifies tax increase," says the headline. The article begins:
Item: Legally mandated notice in the same paper, page 9, half a page high and four columns wide: "NOTICE OF PROPOSED TAX INCREASE." It begins:
Item: Another notice next to the previous item, also half a page high, but only two columns wide and with smaller type. This is the Explanation. An excerpt:
First, I have erroneously reported a few times lately that the 62.76 percent rate increase refers to the certified tax rate. It actually refers to the budget instead and includes taxes on new growth that are irrelevant to the rate calculations. The proposed tax rate increase associated with that budget increase would be 46 percent. Yes, that smaller number is still . . .
Irresponsible. Extravagant. Utterly politically tone-deaf.
The 14 percent really is a proposed tax rate increase; the associated budget increase is the aforementioned 27.06 percent.
The numbers that matter in discussing the tax increase as such are 46 percent and 14 percent, mostly the latter. The former is a public relations gaffe; the latter is the actual proposal.
I regret my inaccurate earlier reports, but my regret is mixed with frustration. On one hand, I am just an inquisitive blogger, not an elected official. On the other hand, I am a voter, to whom those officials are responsible -- and a fairly attentive voter at that. What if my confusion is a symptom of their confusion? I would like to believe that City staff provided our elected decision makers as a body with a clear, accurate, reasonably precise understanding of these numbers at the beginning of the Council discussions . . . or at any time since then.
Second, as an unreformed college writing instructor, I can explain why the published Explanation might compel you to say, "Huh?" -- but you don't need my explanation. Your less technical response is quite adequate and (pardon the possible pun) right on the money.
Is this a bad time to echo the truism, "Sloppy writing is a symptom of sloppy thinking"?
Third, both the legally required NOTICE and the practically necessary Explanation end with this helpful line:
Good luck with that.
Fourth, My Favorite City Councilor has lately blogged about the proposed increase, the budget, and how she intends to vote on the proposed increase.
Fifth, an interested reader who prefers to remain anonymous sent this link to a delightful Saturday Night Live skit starring Steve Martin. I'm not saying this little video applies directly to today's topic, but it is a nice piece of tragicomedy about money, budgets, and humans.
Finally, there's still time to write to the Mayor and City Council. If you do write, remember that the significant number is the proposed tax increase, 14 percent. At this point, the other numbers are just distractions.
Copyright 2008 by David Rodeback.