Monday, November 05, 2007

Someone Once Said That the Spring Hill Utopia Could Be a Mirage

Time and the shrinking state budget will tell whether the Spring Hill Mayor is using a little hocus pocus and smoke and mirrors or whether the utopian vision of a land without taxes can ever exist on this side of glory, let alone on the far side of Williamson County.

- - S-townMike (July 2005)

The chickens are coming home to roost for fabled Spring Hill, a proverbial city on a hill for those who mythically argued that its repeal of property taxes are the reason why Nashville is purportedly hemorrhaging people to the Williamson County hinterlands. The Spring Hill mirage stood on a tripod: sales taxes, fees exacted on housing development (taxes by another name?) and state-shared revenues (taxes in name paid by the rest of us). Pressing down on that tripod was rapid and apparently poorly managed growth along with the slowing job market.

One of the events the anti-tax utopians either never saw coming or willfully ignored was the national slowdown in the housing market, which knocked out the development fees and buckled the sales taxes. Now Spring Hill managers are scrambling to figure out how to cut services that are in higher demand thanks to growth instead of finding new revenue streams to pay for them. It looks like Spring Hill is waking up from its dream and becoming more like the real world where the rest of us live.


  1. Mike - do you enjoy paying taxes or is this just a necessary evil you've come to accept?

  2. I enjoy paying taxes as little as the next average person, but I also realize that we do not get public services for nothing.

    The story of Spring Hill demonstrates that you can demand good services and ask someone else to pay for them, but eventually the chickens are going to come home to roost. Rather than eliminating all property taxes they should have been levying and managing them wisely for such a bad time as they are in now. Now they're faced with worse choices.

    Promising services without taxes may get leaders elected, but it doesn't do any good to the long-term health of the communities.

    Do I like paying taxes for greater security or paved sidewalks? No, but I don't like paying grocery stores for food to eat, either. It would be nice if they just gave bread and milk away.

  3. I certainly understand the situation Spring Hill is facing and agree that there seems to be a lack of foresight in their plan.

    I guess where we differ is that I actually like paying for my groceries because I am in charge of what I buy, how much I'm willing to pay for it, and what I do with it once it's mine. With paying taxes I'm just giving money to a system ran by the same fiscally moronic folks as those in Spring Hill. What little control we may have over that money is gained only by exhaustively fighting for it (as you have done many times for our neighborhood). We've already worked hard to earn that money... why must we work even harder to make the system use it appropriately?

  4. Note: I'm not opposed to taxes - I'm opposed to the horrible job the government does of managing tax revenue and the way that revenue is being used. If we could get a fair form of taxation, competent leaders and lose the red tape politics I think taxes could be a great tool for developing and maintaining social stability.

  5. I wouldn't call a choice between Coke or Pepsi and between paper or plastic "in charge" or even remotely compare it to freedom. It seems to be an economic shell-game that leads you to believe that you are in control, but it's not like you are cultivating and harvesting your own groceries independent of a price structure that a few people besides you set.

    Looking at politics can certainly make us jaded and hopeless, and I am not counseling naive faith in the system, but the people who have to claim responsibility in a democracy are guys like us. If we don't, then the people in power, who also happen to control the groceries and we buy and the prices that we buy them for, will rush into the vacuum and influence politics to drive more money and power their way.

    Taxes are needed and so is public oversight of those taxes. The problem is that anti-tax organizations do not only undermine the possibility of revenues for worthwhile services, but they also discourage public oversight over where taxes go. They dominate the debate and shout (or honk) others down.

    Their symbol, Spring Hill, is showing the pure folly of extreme opposition to all taxes over prudent and informed public control of them.

  6. It's not like the folks in Spring Hill pay no property taxes - that is a myth. They pay county taxes just like everyone else. The Nashville city taxes are not so bad - it's the county taxes that amount to a large portion of the bill. I don't think most people take the time to separate these two parts to the property tax bill.

  7. S-Town doesn't like to mention the county property taxes that Spring Hillians pay because it doesn't quite fit his storyline.

    As for "state-shared" funds, where does the state get that money? Why, from the sales taxes it collects, primarily. Including sales taxes paid to the state by Spring Hill residents.

  8. So, the new State Republican spinmeister is actually accusing someone else of fitting facts into a particular story line?

    Please note, Mr. Communications Director, that it was your side that started promoting the whole "Spring Hill property tax repeal" line without qualification; it was not not mine. What raises my hackles is that your side uses it in order to package the myth that Nashville is losing people to Spring Hill because we actually pay for our own services here. That angle ends up threatening our services.

    If I had been truly troubled that Lauren's point about county taxes did not fit into my own storyline, then I would have deleted or otherwise hammered on her comment. Instead, I let it stand without without protest as a concession.

    What percentage of the sales taxes of "state-shared" funds come from Spring Hill residents? Greater than one percent or less than one percent?

  9. Mike, I do support your point. I think Spring Hill is very short sighted and poorly managed. I was just pointing out that property taxes are made of two different components so when people scream about Nashville's being so high, they need to look at where the big charges are coming from. Since the city and county are the same, the rates can be very lopsided. Then there's the whole general service and urban service district thing....Nashville city taxes really are not bad at all. But folks like Hobbs act like Spring Hill is paying no taxes and that is just not true. And I don't believe any one has ever moved from Nashville to Spring Hill soley because of property taxes. the extra mileage into town would soon negate any savings there!