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Los Alamos is going over a property tax cliff that will result in a disastrous tax burden on all county homeowners and businesses. However, there are actions we can take to prevent this from happening.
This month all Los Alamos home and property owners received a property tax increase of about 40.5 percent to cover last year’s 20-year school commitment and an additional 7.5 percent for whatever. We are now deciding on extending another, “existing” 20 percent school tax for five years and adding an additional 9 percent, “forever” tax to support UNM-LA.
This could not happen at a worse time. Since 2007, the nation has been in the worst economic recession since the Great Depression. Average national incomes have been stagnant for the last seven years. Savings plans have been savaged. There are no COLAs this year for those retired on Social Security. County home values (not home taxes) have dropped every year since 2006, having lost about 30 percent of their value with no end in sight. Los Alamos is setting new records in homes for sale, homes taken off the market because they can’t be sold, homes for rent and homes that are vacant. To make matters worse, while national inflation is said to be flat, this year both the Los Alamos Municipal and County budget share of property taxes have increased by over 11.8 percent. Our homeowners and businesses are being overwhelmed. However, help is possible.
On Nov. 14 last year, our county council voted to “reduce spending and property taxes by $1.5 million per year for each of the next three years” (see County Councilor Robert Gibson’s “Council Corner” column, Jan. 7 2010 in the Monitor, www.lamonitor.com). If these proposed cuts were accomplished, property taxes would be reduced by about six mils in three years — a good start. However, in past years the council has repeatedly rejected all property tax cuts. The recent council vote had a narrow margin of one. Councilors Chiravelle, Gibson, Phelps and Wismer voted for tax cuts. Councilors Bowman, Stover and Wheeler again voted against any property tax cuts.
What should Los Alamos citizens do? It is easy — take a little time and get involved.
Educate yourself. If you have not read Councilman Gibson’s “County Corner” article, read it. Discussions are ongoing on KRSN radio and PAC-8 TV. Listen, watch or participate.
Ask questions. Talk about it with your neighbors and council representatives. For example, I would like to hear our council members speak publicly on this issue before the current tax vote is over.
Another question I have is about the change in the lab’s tax status that has brought the tens of millions of “windfall” dollars in additional revenues into the county. How many millions are involved? Where are these millions going? In light of this revenue, why are some councilors so against cutting property taxes? Why is it so difficult for the Council to cut back on expenses and taxes?
Express yourself, pro or con. Pick up a phone. Send an e-mail. Write a letter to the editor. It is your town. It is your money. Do something.