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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

If I pay taxes, everyone pays taxes!


My township has two JEDD’s, Joint Economic Development Districts. “Joint” means shared, “Economic” means producing income, “Development” means growing said income and “District” means the place it all happens.

The first JEDD went into effect about the same time I became the township clerk, and the “Joint” partner and I got the district up and running. That was 2006, light years ago. I know a couple of things about getting a JEDD off the ground.

One business owner of rental storage units let me make a sweep of the units to see who might be using them in business. I showed him some local advertising that make me suspicious. “Go right ahead,” he said. “If I pay taxes, everyone pays taxes!”

January first of last year our second JEDD went into place. This district essentially covers the rest of the township not in the first district. There are nine businesses in this district. One is the county yard, one is the ski run, one is the park and the last six are 501c3’s associated with the park. When I pulled their 940’s and saw the amount of payroll, I was stunned.

My township is financially strangled by the national park. We aren't the only township in the country with this problem, but I am charged with helping keep this township financially able to pay for snow plowing, police, emergency services, so I take the matter personally. Because of the national park and some local parks, 92% of the township’s taxable real estate is off the tax rolls.

This means that township residents pay to repair roads that millions of park visitors drive on annually. We pay to rescue people lost and hurt in the park. We pay to plow the roads park employees drive on to go to work. We even pay to send their children to school. The park does not pay. There are fewer than seven hundred of us left in the township, and, as I like to say, a lot of us are children.

When I realized from the 940’s, which are filed by tax exempt organizations, how many six figure salaries it takes to run these operations, I suggested to the township trustees we should figure out how to structure a new JEDD to collect income taxes to partially offset the cost of having them around. We got the job done and that JEDD went into effect on January 1st of last year.

I talked to the Human Resources people at each of the nine employers, explaining the JEDD requirements. It was an easy start up. The employees already pay residence taxes; the new tax washes as reciprocity. Eight made the change with no problem. Who has obfuscated the past year away? The national park, of course.

Federal law permits federal employees who work in areas under, I think, 20,000 population, to elect not to have local taxes withheld from their pay. This sounds wonderful, until the awful realization: taxes  must be paid. In fact, all local taxes must be paid to our taxing authority by January 10th, if there is no payroll withholding.

The park’s solution was to remind employees that taxes are their personal responsibility. Eventually I got the park to distribute withholding authorizations. Less than 20% of these were processed, although more seem to have turned them in.

Now, of course, it’s time to pay the piper the taxes. Park officials tell me it will be better next year, they are signing up new employees for withholding. After I hung up and quit banging my head on the desk I filed a Freedom of Information request for the names, addresses and W2 pay of all park employees in that JEDD in 2014, for submission to the tax collector.

Then I wrote two short articles for our local newspaper. One explains to park employees how to bypass the park and go directly to the payroll service to have local taxes withheld. The other explains how to file and pay local taxes.

It saddens me that some people may pay interest and penalties because their employer is a horse’s ass. Perhaps, as one trustee suggests, employees should have been more responsible. But, if I pay taxes, everyone pays taxes.



 Sent from the phone of my BFF,
somewhere overlooking the Caribbean.

19 comments:

  1. Having 92% of the township’s real estate off the tax rolls guarantees an insupportable infrastructure. I'm confident you've pursued more avenues than I can imagine in 9 years contending with it. Is there any precedent for a township solving such a problem?

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    1. Actually the park began acquisition in the mid seventies. We have nosed out every penny to be found these last twenty five years. When the problem began one solution was to allow ourselves to be annexed. However, the surrounding big cities only wanted the plum, the business district that is the first JEDD. They didn't want to repair the roads the park won't, or send their EMS crews down park trails at midnight.
      The lights are still on and the trustees (and most of the citizens) are fifth generation who saw their farms and homes eminent domained by the park. They are as stubborn for their part as the park is arrogant for its. I'm just a thirty year "come here" who is enjoying the battle.
      We are by far the most affected entity in the country. The Shenandoah National Park commenced the same way, but there are no citizens or towns within its borders any more. I could go on about how this ill conceived park came to be, but actually was all just politics as usual.
      When we cannot go on, we turn off the lights. Then they'll have to figure out how to pave the damn roads. In the meantime, it's a great fight. A Don Quixote sort of affair.

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  2. Damn straight...everyone pays taxes....no exceptions.

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  3. Such a pretty picture! Makes one want to travel to the Caribbean!! It doesn't seem right your township has to shoulder so much of the financial obligations for the national park there. Seems to me the federal law should be changed for employees and withholding taxes. I think it would make a lot of things much easier!

    betty

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  4. Seems only fair. They play, they pay.

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  5. How I wish everyone DID pay taxes. Here at least, the wealthier you are, the more opportunities you are given to avoid paying for your share. HIss and spit.

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  6. Hari OM
    En garde Parkus, Joanne's tilting!!! It always amazes me that the more folk earn, the more they want to keep... the concept of 'spreading muck' for benefit of the whole somehow eludes them.. Thank goodness for the watchmen prepared to pull away the blindfolds... YAM xx

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  7. Paying taxes is one of those necessary evils that can work on our nerves. But I agree that everyone would pay them!!! And I believe, the more you make the more you should pay.

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  8. We have tax evasion here in the UK too - and those of us who pay our taxes feel so angry about it, especially when the perpetrators are the big companies. Yamini is right when she says that the more folk make the more they seem to want to keep.

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  9. I have so much respect for you!!!

    Pearl

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  10. I don't understand the tax system here in the UK, let alone try to work out the complexities (and unfamiliar language) of your set up in the US, Joanne! At least here the concept of PAYE (pay as you earn) means that for most people we opt to have our general tax deducted direct from our earnings by employers and directed to HMRC (Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs) - the level of taxation is dependant on level of earnings.

    Local services (refuse collection, road maintenance, local amenities, etc.) is covered by an annual payment to the Borough Council - based on the size and type of property you inhabit.

    My daughter is currently having a battle with our local Borough Council who have just announced an increase in this year's payment but are being less than helpful in delivering those services to her! They own a strip of land adjacent to her property and have failed to cut back trees which are growing near to her property, which has allowed squirrels access to her roof and create over £800 ($1200) worth of damage! It has taken over six weeks to get the council Arboricultural Officer (fancy name for tree surveyor) to come out and inspect the situation, but he finally came on Tuesday and admitted the trees needed cutting back. He suggested it would be several weeks before he could get a work team onto it, but as I was also in attendance (for daughter's moral support) I suggested the words 'official complaint', 'grievance meeting with local councillors' and 'going to the press' - which resulted in an agreement to have the trees chopped back tomorrow (Friday 20/Mar). Well, today we heard the throaty rasp of chainsaws a day early and were delighted to feel that at last the matter was being sorted - only to discover later that they had felled several trees that were not the problem and had left the tallest and nearest one still standing. Woe! :-/ So, daughter will have to be on the phone again tomorrow morning asking which idiots can't take down the marked trees...... :-?
    (....sorry for my rant!)

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    1. Rant on. I was thinking WooHoo, until the part about the wrong trees.Hiss Spit, as EC says.

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  11. Unbelievable. And as Geo. said, insupportable in the end. Which is sad.

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  12. Pay the taxes! One uses the facilities, puts extra burden on a small town? Pay!

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  13. Wow, never thought of it until you explained it so clearly. You go girl.

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  14. That was a very concise statement about the whole business of all the town must pay for, when next to the park, and all that. YOu should be a teacher, you make it so clear!

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