By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
Ever wonder why all new construction in your city or county is governed by a homeowners’ association? The answer, in two words: double taxation.
Most people know that homeowners pay property taxes to support public schools, libraries, local police departments, and maintenance of public infrastructure such as roads. But did you know that, for the past 2 or 3 decades, municipal and county governments actively avoid taking on new pubic works responsibilities when possible?
Township won’t pay for bridge that’s part of a public road
Today’s two reference articles highlight the selfish, short-sighted thinking that is now all too common for local government.
The Intelligencer and Herald Media both report that Supervisors in Washington Township (PA) refuse to accept a new bridge as part of the future public road system for Spring Valley Estates. The new 55 and older residential development will consist of 63 duplexes, for a total of 126 homes.
Real estate developer R. Lee Royer, Accent Homes, explained to township supervisors that the bridge will connect two parts of a public road. So, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for the township to keep up the road, but not the bridge. After all, the road would be useless without the bridge.
But Supervisors Elaine Gladhill, Stuart McCleaf, and Charles Strausbaugh voted against accepting the bridge as part of Washington Township’s public road system. Township Manager Jeff Geesaman complained at a public hearing that he doesn’t want any bridges, because they need too much maintenance.
Well, what are all those property tax dollars for, if not for maintaining roads and bridges that connect them?
Two of the Supervisors, Gladhill and McCleaf, went on the record as to why they think that 126 homeowners should fund future bridge maintenance with a homeowners’ association (HOA). They argue that no one else in the township will ‘benefit’ from the bridge, therefore, no other taxpayer should have to pay even a penny toward its maintenance.
As if no one else from Washington Township or the surrounding area will ever cross that bridge to enter Spring Valley Estates. Not the U.S. Postal Service, UPS, or FedEx. Not family and friends of the residents. Not first emergency responders. Not service providers such as landscape contractors, plumbers, or electricians. Nope. The residents of Spring Valley Estates will exist as hermits on a deserted island on the other side of a $100,000 aluminum bridge.
And, as long as the Supervisors were hell-bent on mandating an HOA for Spring Valley Estates, they also ordered that the HOA will take care of future maintenance of its “sidewalks, curbs, walking trails, stormwater facilities, emergency access roads, etc.”
Tell me, what else is included in “etc.?” Could be anything that the Township decides it would rather not do for your tax dollars!
Nationwide double-taxation has become the “new normal”
Now, to be fair, Washington Township is just doing the same thing that many thousands of local government have done since the 1970s and 1980s. They are approving new development for the purposes of increasing their tax revenue base, while limiting public services they supply to new neighborhoods.
In short, cities, towns, and counties across the U.S. have decided to charge ever higher property taxes, while providing taxpayers a lower level of service. Result: you pay a lot more and get a lot less value for your tax dollars.
And, on top of that, if you live with the burden of mandatory HOA, you’re on the hook for all future maintenance of expensive infrastructure that your local government doesn’t want to take care of. In fact, thousands of cash-strapped association-governed communities struggle to maintain their roads, bridges, and stormwater facilities on shoestring budgets. And because HOAs often lack technical expertise and the bargaining power of larger city or county governments, they usually pay way too much for services from private contractors — often with substandard results.
And, is it even realistic to assume that the stormwater runoff in one neighborhood never mixes in with the stormwater in the next nearest neighborhood? Probably not, but this is the twisted, illogical thought process that dominates today’s local and state politicians that think HOAs are somehow “good” for America.
Now, keep in mind that a portion of Spring Valley Estates homeowners’ property tax dollars will pay for maintenance of other public roads, bridges, sidewalks, and stormwater facilities. But Washington Township leaders don’t object to the fundamental unfairness of this arrangement.
I wonder why?
What if HOA homeowners, all taxpayers insisted on paying for only the public services they actually use?
What if current and future homeowners of Spring Valley Estates decided to take note of which roads and bridges they never or rarely use in the Township? What if they insisted upon a reduction in their property taxes, because, why should they have to pay for infrastructure in other parts of town that they never visit or even pass through?
Maybe every taxpayer across the U.S. should demand that their local property taxes be adjusted for all the pubic services and facilities they don’t use. Seniors and adults without children should no longer have to pay school taxes. Since a majority of residents never use the public library, maybe they should be exempt from paying for the library in their hometown. And, those of us who never call the police should get a discount on our tax bills, since we don’t really use law enforcement services as much as residents in less safe neighborhoods.
See what happens when you take this outrageous line of thinking to its logical extreme?
It’s time for a serious attitude adjustment, beginning with local government leaders who seem to see no value in serving the greater good or the public interest.
Township overrides neighborhood bridge By Andrea Rose, The Intelligencer Jan. 12, 2019
Washington Township debates future ownership of bridge
By Jennifer Fitch Herald Media, Jan. 2, 2019
55-plus plan to be reviewed, By Andrea Rose, The Record-Herald, Posted Feb 10, 2017