Think outside the box on taxes

Say this for our elected officials: those who are complaining about skyrocketing valuations and property taxes have their full attention. Whether it’s at the local level, such as the Custer County Commission, or higher up at the state level with our District 30 representation, the message has been received, and sleeves are being rolled up to get to work to see what, if anything, can be done to stem the tide.
What we know for sure is that people aren’t going to just magically stop wanting to relocate to the Black Hills. The reason many of us live here is because we came here on vacation, for the motorcycle rally or whatever, and fell in love with the area and its people. That’s not going to stop. Every year, thousands upon thousands of people pour into our area to visit, many of whom decide they want to stay. At the very least, they want to return and make this their home in their retirement years.
So, will homes stop being snatched up for ridiculous prices? Probably not. So, if we’re going to continue to base our property values on comparable sales, they are going to keep rising, and we will be stuck in the same vicious cycle. Before long, a “normal” person won’t be able to live here. Custer County, and the Black Hills in general, will be a refuge for the rich. We’ve seen it happen in other places such as Jackson Hole, Wyo., and several places in Colorado.
To get a handle on our property taxes, we have to find a source of revenue to replace that money. The state is always going to need its money, and is always going to find a way to get that money. Some have lobbied for a plan similar to that of California’s Proposition 13, which caps the amount a property can rise in value each year, and doesn’t take comparable sales into account. Those who argue against such a plan point out that California simply replaced the money it lost through Proposition 13 with ridiculously high fees on government services. That could be an unintended consequence.
One person called our office and felt there was no issue at all. They argued that maybe not everyone should be able to live in Custer County if they can’t afford the price of admission, so to speak. I know that’s not a popular sentiment, and we can’t cosign that belief. But it’s out there.
Any form of state income tax is dead on arrival. We can’t see that ever getting passed in the legislature, so it’s not worth discussing. What is worth discussing, however, is some sort of sales tax that would evenly distribute the tax burden to everyone. This is known as a consumption tax (see Tim Goodwin’s column elsewhere in this issue), and people pay the tax on what they consume. This way, everyone pays their share when they purchase something, and tourists would even help foot the bill when they were in town.
The positive thing is that the wheels are turning, and people are working together to find a solution. There may be some at the state level who deem it impossible, but the fact is they work for us, not the other way around. If enough of us, the people, say we’re not going to tolerate being taxed out of our home, our elected officials and state employees will have no choice but to listen.
Keep the ideas coming, and keep the pressure on the powers that be. Working together, we can make sure you don’t have to be a millionaire to live in Custer County. Keep up the energy you’ve shown. We’re off to a great start in getting the status quo changed.

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