Every year most large cities go through a painful budgeting process that usually results in property tax increases. A particular pet peeve of mine is hearing city bureaucrats or politicians describe some change as a cost savings when it is really a tax increase.
Over the years I’ve been a homeowner I’ve seen an explosion of user fees for city services. These services were once provided free of any additional charge and paid for from general property tax revenue. Now they are at least partially paid for by user fees.
Leaving aside the question of whether slapping user fees on everything is the right thing to do, it is annoying to hear some bureaucrat or politician describe the change as a cost savings rather than calling it what it really is: a tax increase.
If the change were made in a revenue-neutral way that would be one thing, but that’s not how it works. If the city collects $100 million in property taxes one year and collects $100 million in property taxes the next year plus $5 million in user fees, but provides exactly the same services for that money, this is a 5% tax increase.
What isn’t clear to me is whether those who play these semantic games are just cynically trying to make their actions seem like less of a tax increase or whether they are so caught up in the battle between city bureaucrats and property taxpayers that they really think of these tax increases as cost savings.