To the Editor:
Recently I stood behind an elderly woman at the county treasurer’s window trying to pay three years worth of back taxes and penalties so the county wouldn’t take her home away. She said she had come to make her payment with the last bit of cash she had. It wasn’t even enough to pay the 2013 tax bill. The woman behind the glass told the elderly lady that they could set up a payment plan for her to pay her back taxes and penalties. This elderly lady had to be in her late 70’s. Seriously, a payment plan? If she lived to be 120 she would never catch up on back taxes and penalties.
Does the county, town, village, and school district really need the last of her savings? Just how much longer will this soul live? What quality of life will she have? Should her last days be lived out in fear of losing her home? I wonder what she has for money to make it through the coming winter.
I doubt SSI or a pension is doing much for her as tax levies have increased twice as much as the cost of living. It’s shameful and dishonorable for the state to treat its residents like they’re only a source of revenue for a broken system.
I bring this to light at this time because we’ve all received our school tax levy. And as I had stated previously relating property assessment to tax costs, there is a direct and indisputable relationship of higher assessments and higher tax bills. This year my assessment went up (as did 97 percent of the property owners’ in the town of Potsdam), my school district cost per thousand went down and, as I predicted, my school tax levy went up. Go figure! So please don’t tell me I’m too ignorant to understand “redistribution” or give me some other inadequate explanation.
I’ve been criticized for verbally attacking elected officials who should have the financial interests of the people who elected them as their focus, but have failed to prove they do. I’ve been told I’m too aggressive and obviously frustrated with the situation. After five years of trying to make a difference, I admit, I am frustrated.
So I question my critics: if we don’t hold elected officials accountable just whom do we hold accountable? Shouldn’t they be the ones making a concentrated effort to turn this mess around? Or should we take matters into our own hands and only pay the portion of our taxes we know we can afford and nothing more? How much more do you think you can afford to pay every year? Will you end up like the lady at the window of the county treasures office with the last of your life savings in your hand and still be forced out of your home?
This is a very serious and very real situation. Who among you truly cares, and what are you going to do about it?
Potsdam Taxpayer Association