The Crime of Property Taxation
A leader, from its inception as an original member of The Thirteen Colonies, Pennsylvania, with its abundance of swift moving streams, coal, iron ore, timber, and industrious immigrants, led the early Colonies in industry and manufacturing. The value of her real estate rose proportionate to her industrious muscle and raw material opportunities.
In the mid Twentieth Century, post WW2, Pottstown reached its pinnacle in industrial production and commercial activity. Along with numerous heavy and light industries we were the regional hub for professional businesses, banking, and service related companies. Both laborers and their managers lived within the Boro limits as our population topped thirty thousand citizens. Property values reflected the upward vitality of the Town's strength.
Then came the crash when three quarters of Pottstown's industry began their exodus along with their payrolls, not only of the workers but also the wages of the managers, and, adding insult to injury, houses came on sale at a lower than ever value in a race to the bottom price we find now. Professionals also moved out of town as everyone became more mobile in the age of the automobile. During this fifty year decline the population dropped by ten thousand and even as the cost of living rose each year property values declined or remained flat.
The only constant during this time was the cost of education which went up each year and property taxes to fund the increases went up also. No matter how much you squeeze an orange you get only so much juice from it. As a stabilizing force in most small towns, seniors, many of them on fixed incomes, must reduce their daily living costs in order to pay the rising costs of property taxes if they decide to stay in their homes. When forced from their homes the character of that neighborhood changes many times to the negative eroding the tax base further.
It seems a consensus in public thinking that an educated citizenry is an imperative to having a strong healthy country. An after thought in an agricultural society, education became more and more important as we moved into and out of the industrial revolution and we are now in the information age where education is a must.
Today, just as important : as highways, as bridges, as water ways and ports, as trains and air lines, is education which needs to be funded accordingly. To function in the 21st Century and beyond we can't rely on outmoded methods to raise money for schools. Anchored to the land, anchored to a community both life styles of agriculture and industry adapted to property taxes supplying funds to educate her young. Now in the information age where everyone is mobile and everyone needs more education the means to pay for it is vastly inadequate.
Education is the bridge to the future and as all bridges serve all travelers an educated American serves all countrymen. Bridges are high cost structures, education costs a lot too and as bridges need to be paid for out of a general fund so must we pay for education in the same way.
Taxing property, once acceptable when agriculture and industry ruled the economy, no longer serves a proper role in the 21st Century. Building the universal bridge through education needs us to develop a non property universal method to pay for it.
Ronald C. Downie