Wed | Dec 7, 2016

Improper property taxes again?!

Published:Monday | February 9, 2015 | 12:00 AM

I am appalled at the mere thought that property taxes may be increased again. Not so long ago, property taxes were hiked in leaps and bounds, by percentages in the hundreds, in many cases. Governments often use and abuse the citizens that are easily identified, corner them, and then squeeze them mercilessly. Times are hard and raising property taxes will certainly make it much harder.

I notice that government ministers are knocking heads over yet another increase in property taxes (The Gleaner, February 3, 2015). Whenever there is a need to increase revenue, the powers that be default to the simplest, least innovative solution - raise taxes on those citizens who must obligatorily comply. Never mind that there is no commensurate improvement in services and amenities to justify any increase in property taxes.

Many rural landowners have no infrastructure and no utilities, yet they are being taxed at high rates. Many arterial, parochial and residential roads are deplorable; they damage motor vehicles, increase the risk of being ambushed, robbed or perhaps even killed. Some roads are so 'potholed' that they bring down the value of homes and breed potentially disease-bearing mosquitoes.

Garbage collection remains a guessing game, with the trucks only providing a few seconds' notice on their arrival. Not everyone can afford a metal unit to secure their garbage and not every sidewalk can accommodate it. Because of canines, rodents and disease-bearing insects, unsecured garbage cannot be left outside in anticipation of the collection, no one can say for certain if or when the truck will arrive.

 

NO SERIOUS EFFORT

 

There has been no serious, demonstrable effort to make certain that no one, especially illegal dwellers on the edge of gullies, dumps refuse and effluent of any kind in them and end up polluting our precious coastlines.

Many street lights are non-functional. The resultant darkness provides the perfect cover for criminals. Citizens are left open to robberies, abductions, rapes and murders that are facilitated by the lack of proper lighting. Open lots and unkempt properties attract reprobates and villains of all sorts, yet remain ignored by the authorities.

Most sidewalks are only theoretical perimeter strips juxtaposed to parcels of land. They are supposed to provide safe passage for pedestrians and the physically impaired, but they rarely do that. The property-tax dollars are also supposed to (directly or indirectly) ensure that fire hydrants are provided and function when needed; but many are non-functional.

Another serious problem is that of 'captured land'. Squatters who put down roots on anyone's land can lay claim to said land if they remain undisturbed for 12 and a half years. However, squatters can only lay claim to Crown lands after 60 undisturbed years. I am yet to understand that glaring discrepancy. The tacit government rationale is that people who do not utilise their land somehow don't care much about it and, therefore, deserve to have someone take it from them and put it to 'good use'. Many times that, 'good use' only involves raising a bunch of children, planting a few food crops or rearing a few animals on the land.

On the one hand, the powers that be sometimes treat landowners as if they don't deserve to own land; they don't apply as stringent a criteria to squatters who try to capture government lands as they do other parcels of land.

But, on the other hand, the powers that be often slap land-owners with such high taxes that it seems punitive. It's as if they believe that landowners care so much about their incredibly valuable commodity that they must pay whatever taxes are applied to it.

Dissenters are labelled as being from the other political party. And, parliamentarians tend to vote along party lines and end up representing the views and wishes of their party and not necessarily the welfare of the constituents who put them in Parliament. In other words, sad to say, we all must brace for the worst.

n Garth Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and garthrattray@gmail.com.