Rossville Mayor Teddy Harris shared some back-of-the-envelope calculations last week that may put to rest the notion that residents of one of the city's nicer neighborhoods shoulder 80 percent of its tax burden.
Earlier this year, Harris unsuccessfully tried to do away with what he described as the "hated" Rossville administration fee and replace the revenue by raising the property tax rate.
The largest crowds in years attended City Council meetings to oppose the tax hike, and one claim that surfaced was that residents of South Mission Ridge Drive's 110 homes paid almost all the city's taxes.
Bobby McNabb, executive director of Rossville's Downtown Development Authority, saw the claim mentioned again last week in a news story. He didn't think it sounded right, Harris said.
So McNabb, who declines to speak to the media, "got curious and got out a scratch pad," the mayor said.
"He looked up in the tax digest, wrote all the figures down and added them all up," Harris said.
McNabb determined the total amount of annual property tax most recently paid by homeowners on South Mission Ridge Drive is $68,184, Harris said. The total of property taxes billed citywide is $610,636, he said.
So those on South Mission Ridge Drive pay about 11 percent of the city's property taxes, not 80 percent.
Harris doesn't think the calculations would have swayed residents' opposition to the property tax hike, which he touted as a more progressive form of taxation than the $6.50-per-month administration fee levied on every residence with a water meter.
"It wouldn't have mattered," Harris said. "It is what it is. Nobody likes to pay taxes."
Rossville resident Charles Wilson was among those who attended council meetings to express displeasure over the proposed property tax hike. Wilson doesn't live on South Mission Ridge Drive.
"The tax hike would not have solved the problem. It was just an easy out, and everyone knew it," Wilson wrote in an email. "It's time for our representatives across the governmental spectrum to give up the idea that the right to tax is a right to plunder. We are taxed enough already. It is time to cut."
Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.