A Tax Primer

18th Century Americans counted their land as wealth, so the towns that grew up from the farms here taxed the value of the real property our citizens owned. As the recent bobbles in the real estate market have proven, land is perhaps not the best indicator of one’s ability to pay for civic service. Few citizens today measure wealth by land holdings. Today we live on wages and interest and dividends, the proceeds of manufacturing and trade.

The property we bought in North Puffin more than 30 years ago serves as a good example. This Town reappraised all properties last year so everyone’s assessment rose a skazillion percent. Sales prices of real estate are down by half here now but the appraisal is still high. My wife who, like so many other American workers had her “full time” job cut to just three days per week, is suddenly “land poor.” The taxing authorities here believe she can pay higher real estate taxes again this year simply because she did it last year.

Vermont’s most fundamental source of revenue (other than the Federal government) is real estate taxes. Unlike in Florida, real estate tax revenue here never declines simply because property values do.

That, dear reader, is a fundamental problem.