By all means, commissioners: Inform the public. At least try.
County officials are saying they haven't yet decided whether to hold public information sessions to explain an upcoming referendum on Tax Allocation Districts for Columbia County.
Duh. They should.
TADs aren't exactly the easiest bureaucratic idea to explain. County Attorney Doug Batchelor is scheduled to take a shot at it in an upcoming guest column.
Unfortunately, local taxpayers these days probably don't have a very high tolerance for anything that has the word "tax" in it.
After all, many of them are holding in their hands a happy little notice from the tax assessor, congratulating them because their largest investment has performed better than the stock market.
Tax-assessment notices aren't worded that way, of course. And homeowners with no intention of selling their home aren't seeing investment profits; they're just seeing a fatter tax bill.
To make matters worse, officials have dithered over the creation of impact fees that, at least psychologically, would ease the sting of homeowners' rising tax load by passing some of the cost of government to new residents.
So it's no surprise taxpayers could be grumpy - and not keen to hear about another tax deal.
But Columbia County taxpayers are no dummies, either; after all, they were wise enough to invest in valuable real estate. They know a good deal when they see one. And TADs are a good deal.
Columbia County commissioners should already have the authority to create tax allocation districts, but bureaucratic bungling last year allowed enabling legislation to expire. So lawmakers had to repeat the bill this year.
In the June 19 special election for the 10th District U.S. House seat and the 24th District state Senate seat, commissioners also plan a referendum for TADs.
If approved, commissioners could designate tax allocation districts. Property values for county tax purposes in that area would then be frozen; as values rise through reassessments or from development, the additional taxes reaped from the difference would be available for spending on improvements in that specific area.
Sound complicated? It isn't, but attempting to absorb the subject could cause taxpayers' eyes to glaze over - like the stormwater utility fee eight years ago.
Still, commissioners need to give it a try. After all: They have nothing to lose but their TADs.
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