On this day, with a little bit of snow on the ground, I think of something I wrote about seven years ago. I may have sent it to the local papers as a letter or guest column at the time.
Basic Purpose of Government
I received a communication from a former member of the Flemington Borough Council who chided me for complaining about lack of services, in the form of snow removal, in the business area of the community. He claims amusement when business owners, who are Republicans, complain about lack of services and “kick and scream when taxes go up to pay for the services such as the snow removal machine . . .”
He Misses the Point
The basic purpose of government is to protect its citizens, to provide for their safety, and to provide the infrastructure so they can go about their business and go about living their lives. Providing roads, and snow removal from the roads, is a basic service.
In our rural area, with fifty or sixty foot rights-of-way with a twenty or thirty foot pavement in the middle, the snow can be pushed to the side.
In a small town or city type atmosphere, as in Flemington, there is not room to push the snow aside, have room for parking, and provide access to businesses, and still function – the snow must be removed.
In terms of costs it is known that business property in Flemington historically contributed about fifty percent of local tax revenue. Office and retail property provides very few school children that need to be served by our schools. It is also known that between 75% and 80% of our taxes dollars go to the schools and County, leaving about twenty percent for local government.
If property in the business community decreases in value, the tax revenue from business property will fall. Taxes are based on the value of the property from which our businesses operate. If the central business district is thought of as a shopping center, as with a shopping center, if services are not provided the business owners will move to where services are provided.
Business + Residential Tax Results
As property become vacant neighboring property become less valuable. Because most Flemington businesses operate in leased property the value of the property is determined by the lease income. As business does less business, or less profitable business, it will pay less rent and the business property will decrease in value and thus pay less tax. The local government budget will likely not decrease. In which case other property, that is homeowners, will have to pay more tax.
Snow Removal Really Matters
Snow removal is one small part of attracting business to the community, increasing property value, and thus generating more tax revenue. Look at it this way — if the business community decreases in value by half, the rest of the community will have to pay fifty percent more than they are paying now to support the same budget.
Shopping center owners think of snow removal, and other services of that nature, as a cost that is akin to an investment to retain their tenants. The government of Flemington needs to begin to think of itself more in line with what shopping center owners think in their effort to attract and retain tenants.
What Are Your Thoughts?
What ideas do you have that will make Flemington more business friendly so as to attract more business and more value to support the local tax base? Let me hear from you. I have a few more ideas that I look forward to posting.