Spring Hill has learned an important lesson, one it has generously shared in the pages of The Tennessean and one I fully expect will go unheeded: you need taxes to run a government. In this story by Jamie Page, we learn of the disaster of the years when Spring Hill had no property tax.
Based on property appraisals at the time, the city would have brought in more than $2 million during those three years if the tax rate had been left at the same rate of 19 cents per $100 of assessed value at the time it was abolished, according to an estimate by Finance Director Jim Smith.
“How much further could we have been on the Duplex Road widening?” [Vice Mayor Bruce] Hull said. “Could it have been done by now? Could we have been able to participate in some of these state road projects? It’s a lesson worth remembering, and I hope we don’t ever forget it.”
Alderman Eliot Mitchell also thinks that the city wouldn't have been illegally borrowing money from its water and sewer department in order to put money into the city's general fund, if not for the massive shortages brought on by their years with no property tax.
The most alarming part of the article is when Bruce Hull says, "I was as excited as anybody else when they eliminated the property taxes. But I didn’t know anything at the time about how the city government operated." I get that a lot of people run for office because they're motivated by particular ideologies — like cutting taxes — and I appreciate Hull's honesty. But it's also kind of terrifying. Why would you want to be in charge of something you knew nothing about? And how do you develop your "taxes are bad" ideology without even considering whether you understand what taxes do?
Well, maybe it's good that Republicans have so much power in the state, at least in this regard. If they really didn't know why things are set up how they're set up — why, for instance, you have to have property taxes — and yet they were still legislating about these things, I guess it's good that they're finally finding out.