December 30, 2009 - Taxes are a lot like poison.
In small doses, they can be tolerated.
But in large amounts, they're lethal.
Case in point, Oxford Community Schools is considering shifting its tax collection from the current 50/50 split between the summer and winter bills to a 100 percent bite in the summer, possibly starting in 2011.
Granted, the schools aren't asking for more money. They just want to collect all of it at once to improve their cash flow situation and prevent them from having to borrow money and pay interest while waiting for their state payments.
No decisions have been made by the school board at this point, but I must say I'm not a fan of this idea because of what it will do to the poor folks who pay non-homestead property taxes.
For those of you who don't know, non-homestead taxes are levied against businesses, industrial properties, rental properties, second homes, etc.
Currently, the district levies an operating tax of 17.9946 mills against non-homestead properties.
Property owners pay 50 percent of this millage on their summer tax bill from Oxford and Addison townships and the other half on their winter bill.
Even under the existing setup, they're still paying 8.9973 mills twice a year, which is by no means a pittance.
But if the district has its way, non-homestead property owners would pay the 'full monty' on their summer tax bill.
For many of the struggling businesses in our community – particularly all those small enterprises owned by families, couples and individuals – this would impose a heavy, if not impossible, burden.
Add to that, the district also proposed collecting the full 7-mill bond debt tax during the summer, instead of the current 50/50 split between summer and winter.
So, basically the district is thinking of increasing non-homestead taxpayers' summer bill by 12.4973 mills, making them pay a grand total of 24.9946 mills to the schools all at once.
That's a huge hit on a single bill.
It's also a recipe for disaster for every small business in this community.
And we wonder why it's so hard for the mom-and-pop shops to make it.
The school's proposal is particularly devastating for businesses in Oxford Village that already get socked with a separate summer tax bill of 10.12 mills to support that municipality.
And let's not forget the other 15.1434 mills in summer taxes for the Oakland Intermediate School District, Oakland Community College, county operations and the state education tax.
Include all those taxes and if the school district starts collecting 100 percent in the summer, the bills sent out in July to non-homestead property owners in Oxford Township will total 40.1380 mills. And for those who own non-homestead property in Oxford Village, it will be 50.2580 mills.
Who in their right mind thinks those amounts are reasonable, manageable or attractive to potential new businesses?
Both the Downtown Development Authority and Chamber of Commerce should be voicing their strong opposition to this idea. It's time for these organizations to stop being cheerleaders and start being true advocates for businesses.
The township board and village council should also be chiming in, instead of sitting on their hands, afraid to offend.
Schools have to stop living in a bubble and thinking only of their needs. Schools would do well to remember the world does not revolve around them and they're not the only units of government that saddle us with taxes.
The district is considering a 100 percent tax collection because of its "cash flow." Well, what about the "cash flow" of businesses and other non-homesteaders who already struggle to pay their nearly 25 mills to the schools on two tax bills sent five months apart? The school board should consider that.
Times are tough all over, not just for the schools.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.