Letter: The Flaws of the Property Tax
To the Editor:
In a recent Forum letter, Rebecca Stewart claimed that the property tax was the fairest way to pay the cost of running the state. While New Hampshire does enjoy a low overall tax burden, nothing could be further from the truth. Our present system, which taxes people based primarily on the value of their property, actually discourages homeowners from making improvements for fear of the tax assessor’s visit. Consider the average annual per-pupil cost in the Mascoma Valley Regional School District of about $15,000. The present system of taxation allows a family with three school-age children living in a small house or mobile home to shift the $45,000 annual financial burden of their children’s education to the two childless retirees living on fixed incomes in the house they built with their own hands. How is this “fair”?
Yes, we need affordable housing, and mobile homes fill that need. However, if you want “fair,” perhaps you should advocate a pay-as-you-go” system where every road carries a toll, every municipal service a fee, and every student’s family pays the full cost of their education. Get rid of the tax deductions for having a child — after all, when you had children, you decided you could afford them! Would I want to live in such a system? No, I would not. I recognize the common good that comes from leveling the field a bit and spreading the burden throughout the community, state and nation, which ultimately reaps the rewards of good schools, reliable infrastructure and community services.
We live in a state where the financial resources available to run our cities, towns and local school districts are determined to some extent by our neighbors’ priorities. If they choose to invest in their homes, the burden is more equally shared. If instead they choose to invest in “toys” of various shapes and sizes, they push an unfair portion of the burden onto the rest of us. Again, how is this “fair”? A property tax alone is most certainly not a fair way to fund our state and local governments.