Monday, June 30, 2008

We must conserve water, but will it save us money?

We must conserve water. If we do not conserve during a drought, we could run out of water, or have cloudy water as the water systems pump from the bottom of the lake.

We do conserve water so, of course, we should be saving money on our water bills. But now we find out that our per unit rates may go up. That’s horrible! Why should we be paying more per gallon when we use fewer gallons?

What people must understand–but many do not understand–is that the water rate, or price per gallon, must go up as we conserve water and use fewer gallons.

The cost of the water services is based on the cost of facilities–the reservoir, treatment facility, and pipes to our homes–and the maintenance of these facilities. Only a small part is based on the amount of water used. As we conserve water we use fewer gallons per month. The cost of maintaining existing facilities and building new facilities remains the same, so the cost per gallon will increase.

The bottom line: Households who conserve the same as the average household will eventually find that their monthly bills are the same as previous bills. Those who conserve more than the average will see decreasing bills; those who conserve less than the average will see increasing bills.

When it comes to water pipes, “we must pay the piper.”

John A. Shaw
Cary, NC

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Transfer Tax

The Realtors are at it again. They intend to spend millions to repeal a law that allows county commissions to, with the approval of the voters, impose a 0.4% transfer tax on the sale of property.

The transfer tax will, if adopted, will provide funds to help build new schools and infrastructure for growth. The cost will fall primarily on commercial property and real estate bought for investment purposes. About one third will fall on residential owners.

In spite of the fact that the tax affects commercial property more than residential property, the Realtors and homebuilders are calling the tax a “home tax”. They have spent millions to defeat referenda in 19 counties by convincing people that this 0.4% cost on the sale will make it difficult to sell a home and that it “taxes the American dream”. Now the NC Association of Realtors has made a commitment to add $10 million to an advocacy fund to continue their efforts to defeat the transfer tax.

Fast growing counties will have to find a way to pay for new school construction. The only way that does not require a referendum is an increase to the property tax. This tax will be paid by all property owners, not just those who are selling property.

The bills to repeal the transfer tax option do not repeal the sales tax option. The sales tax is a very regressive tax, hitting a much larger percentage of the income of a low income person than that of a higher income person.

The Realtors and homebuilders must recognize that the growth in Wake County will force the school district to buy property and to build school buildings. These new buildings and land will come at a much higher cost than existing buildings and land. The county commissions and voters should have the option of placing that tax burden on the growth rather than on the backs of all citizens, including those who do not benefit from the growth. This burden will come in the form of higher sales tax or higher property tax–the real home tax.

John Shaw

Cary, NC