Your Money ;
Property Tax Revolt By Carole Fleck
; Home values have dropped by 22 percent.
; Owners want tax relief.
; Who will pay to keep the town running?
If anyone knows what her house is worth, it’s Rose- Anne DeSantes McLarnon,
a real estate agent in New Jersey. And she says it surely wasn’t
worth the inflated value that local
assessors assigned it last year in
the midst of the nation’s worst
housing collapse since the 1930s.
McLarnon’s four-bedroom home,
perched on a lake just outside
Atlantic City, has lost a third of its
market value since she and her
husband moved in three years ago,
she estimates. So they were aghast
when they opened their property
tax bill of more than $9,100. “Our
property tax bill went up and our home’s value
went down,” says McLarnon, 59.
In communities all over the country, growing
numbers of homeowners like the McLarnons
are fighting back against property tax bills that
remain stubbornly high or continue to rise even
as average home prices have plummeted— 22
percent between 2006 and 2009, according to
the National Association of Realtors.
Many owners, including retirees living on
fixed incomes, had been counting on financial
relief in the form of lower tax bills.
But like it or not, local governments depend
on property taxes to pay for schools, police, gar-
bage trucks, libraries, pothole repair crews and
other services and essentials of civic life.
Officials tend to keep property taxes high to
make ends meet, rather than cut services: 25
percent of American cities raised property tax
rates in fiscal year 2009, according to the Na-
tional League of Cities, an advocacy group. Just
a few weeks ago, Philadelphia officials raised
property tax rates by 9. 9 percent.
“Just because assessments go down doesn’t
mean property tax bills will go down,” says Kim
Rueben, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute,
a research group in Washington. At the same
time, she says, “local governments are aware of
the fact that homeowners can revolt.”
The beginnings of revolt can be found in at
least half a dozen states. In some, residents show
their ire with flurries of assessment appeals—in
Florida’s Miami-Dade County, 10,091 were filed
last year, compared with 5,653 appeals in 2007.