IGWG model offers glimpse into tax future

That old adage about the predictability of death

and taxes was never so true.

At least where local taxes are concerned. Our five

taxing jurisdictions – city, schools, parks, fire and library – have this week unveiled the first-ever comprehensive “Tax Model” for Bainbridge Island, and it’s worth a gander and some fanfare. (You can find it online at www.ci.bainbridge-isl.wa.us/igwg_tax_model.asp; click “Link to Tax Model” to download the document in PDF format.) Some months in the making, the model is the handiwork of the Intergovernmental Work Group, known colloquially as “IGWG” (rhymes with “bigwig”), and city budget manager Ralph Eells.

While unabashedly lengthy (the pessimist’s equivalent of “comprehensive”), the model provides an excellent and informative look at what you pay in property taxes, and to whom, and what services you get for your money. Perhaps more importantly, it offers a collective best-guess into the future of local taxes – probably the first time our local agencies have, as a group, committed to such prognostication.

Factoring in upcoming capital issues (school construction bonds and a technology levy, a city issue for downtown improvements, what have you) and likely tax hikes for general operations, then adjusting for increases in local assessed valuation, the model can give the owner of the “typical” Bainbridge Island home an idea of what their property taxes will be every year through 2010.

Beyond its usefulness for financial planning, the document’s political utility should also prove boundless. Local agencies – and citizens who support the broadest possible palette of public amenities – can, with some authority, tell gripey anti-tax types to pipe down; as it shows on page 19, fully 61 percent of 2005 property taxes on Bainbridge Island were authorized at the ballot box by a 60 percent “supermajority” of voters, for everything from school operations to open space preservation.

The anti-tax crowd, meanwhile, can wring hands with equal authority over the steady upward creep of the tax burden. As it says on page 21, that “typical homeowner” who writes a check for $4,031.10 in 2005 will have to shell out $4,725.61 in 2010, should all things come to pass. Indeed, there are some who no doubt hope that, presented with the long view, many folks will vote against more bonds and levies to exert some downward pressure on future measures.

The problem with this thinking is, it doesn’t obviate the need for capital investment in our community. Having 41 percent of islanders say “we can’t afford $40 million to build new schools” does nothing to solve the need for new buildings, any more than defeat of the last fire levy rolled back any miles from the odometers of old fire trucks.

Better, we think, if the various governments use the new tax model to coordinate their spending and meter their funding requests. Perhaps, as they did a few years ago, they might resolve as a group to keep the aggregate local property tax rate at or below a particular level, letting growth and redevelopment help absorb some of the tax burden over time.

It should be a good conversation, and make local taxes, at least, much more predictable. Now if IGWG could just forecast each of our deaths with equal accuracy, we could really do some planning.

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Read the Oct 21
Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Browse the archives.

Friends to Follow

View All Updates