My Turn: Property taxes cast shadow over golden years

For the Monitor
Published: 3/10/2019 12:15:11 AM

A little over 10 years ago, I anonymously penned a commentary for this paper reflecting on the inequities in our state’s reliance on property taxes and the burden on our retiree population.

The situation I referenced was my neighbor, a lifelong farmer whose property taxes were equivalent to 50 percent of his Social Security income, dictating he would need to continue to work, likely for the rest of his life, to keep his family farm. I also noted at the time the high rate of my own property taxes, but in the prime of my career, it was less a burden than those on fixed incomes.

It is now more than 10 years later; my neighbor has donated his farm to a preservation trust so he will be able to stay in his home until his life tenure is complete. I am looking forward to the future and can now put in context what will become the burden I will bear with keeping my home.

My property taxes in 2018 stand at $16,000 a year. My estimated Social Security income if I retire at 65 will be approximately $24,000 a year. With the year-over-year property tax increases, I can expect by the time I retire they will be upward of $20,000 a year.

It would be easy to argue the home is more than my wife and I need. It is too large for two, but as it was built with sweat equity it was sized by the labor we were willing to endure. The real value is in the beauty and solitude of the property, ancestral pastures, stone walls and privacy that cannot be replicated.

When retirement comes, my entire Social Security will be needed to pay my property taxes and whatever amount is required for income tax. My burden between now and the day I retire is to face the reality that I may not be able to retire in the home where a lifetime of memories has been made.

In the 10 years since penning that first commentary on this subject, our elected representatives have offered no solution to address the inequities of our state taxation model. How many more years need to pass and how many more residents of our great state will face the same burden, their only choice being to leave behind their home?

(Scott McDonald lives in Wilmot.)




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