Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The taxes are too damn high!

[Following is an article submitted to this website today. I added the title and graphic.]


Over the years, I have heard (repeatedly) how high the taxes are in Columbia Borough.  I was born here and have been a property owner since 1986.  When I was young, I simply accepted whatever the taxes were and paid them without question.  Taxes were part of the mortgage payment and therefore I (like many other young people) made the payment and ignored the tax part.  The closer I get to retirement, the more I realize it may be impossible to continue living in this borough.  I wanted to see what other options might be available and this became quite an eye-opener.  Hearing that taxes are "high" is not enough, we need to look closer to see clearly just how high they really are.  
Currently, there are a few homes for sale that have a Columbia address, but are actually in West Hempfield.
I found an example of this with two homes of comparable square footage and selling price, both with Columbia addresses, but one sitting in West Hempfield Township. The annual property tax was 1,667.00 dollars higher in Columbia.  That is enough to pay a winter heating bill for one year/season.  For a person in retirement, that is a chunk of change.  
The following scenario is based on a home worth 150,000 dollars, as well as good health:
A homeowner in Columbia, planning to retire at 62 years and live in their home until he or she reaches age 82 will pay well over 120,000.00 dollars in property tax to Columbia Borough during that 20 year period.  Obviously that amount will rise, but is based on no increase for the sake of this study.  That is like paying for the home twice.  The average tax bill will be 500.00 a month!  We never actually OWN the home, even if the mortgage is paid, we rent it from the borough.  If homeowners were billed $500.00 a month for taxes, I wonder how many would be delinquent.  That 120,000.00 dollars does not include all the tax money paid to the borough prior to retirement.  
 
The last part that grabbed my attention was a "three- building" rental property for sale in the borough with an annual property tax of 10,762.00 dollars.  This property has 13, one-bedroom units, and one commercial space.  There is the potential for 13 to 26 people to reside in this apartment building.  The tax on one, single family home, is as high as 6,000.00 dollars.  The people living in the single family home probably are maintaining their property, thereby helping the borough's image.  On the other hand, the landlord is more than likely not living in the borough and does as little as possible to maintain the property, in order to enhance his own wallet.  The tax disparity is obvious.
If the homeowners in Columbia were billed monthly for taxes and paid their mortgage separately, there would be a public outcry.  The homeowners in this borough must come together and demand action.  Attend the council meetings, crowd the room, speak up.  If we went shopping and made a $500.00 purchase monthly, I am certain beyond a doubt that we would demand to know what our money bought and we would want to be satisfied with the product.  Our tax money is no different.
(Tax information was gathered from public records.)
[Name withheld by request]

63 comments:

  1. they are much higher in New York and New Jersey

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Really not an apt comparison; taxes are higher in Chicago, San Francisco, too, but the delivery of services and services available are way better.

      Delete
    2. well then maybe we should demand better services rather then lower taxes, cine we are one of the top places in the USA to visit !

      Delete
  2. The article does not claim that the borough taxes are the highest in the country. While it is also understood that Hempfield has a much larger tax base, the point is that Columbia is land-locked (as they say), so the taxes can only continue to go up for the residents remaining here. This steady increase cannot go on indefinitely.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Columbia might be "land locked", but it isn't "sky locked". We need to promote mid rise market rate condo projects like downtown Lancaster has under construction see http://www.magnoliaplacelancaster.com/ home ownership condo's from $750,000. to 1.2 million per unit, and they don't even have a river !

      Delete
    2. Yep. Remember when one of the developers (http://www.magnoliaplacelancaster.com/index.php/39-home/services/79-meet-the-developers) was turned down for a similar project in Columbia?

      Delete
    3. It's unfortunate that it fell through.

      Delete
    4. yep, they were turned down by zoning on a variance request for a market tax rate project (no subsidies) home ownership project, due to a small shortfall on the required number of parking spaces. So, they built it in Lancaster instead. soo sad

      Delete
  3. been saying thisa for years...gotta get rid of the hundreds and hundreds of rental properties...like i stated before....they do NOT pay the same amount of taxes of each hardworking taxpaying homeowner. its ludacris. and people are continuing to buy single family dwellings and rent them. therefore less taxes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The simple solution for rental properties is to do what they do in many small and large cities across the country, and jack up the rental licences fees ! , to take some tax pressure off the home owners. Do the research - some are as high as $500. per unit per year ! What does that equate to per year for Columbia ? our problem is that Council doesn't have the guts to "just do it " !!

      Delete
    2. Its not going to help. The school teachers pensions and state pensions must go! Stop them now and give them 401k's!!!!!!

      Delete
  4. Don't expect the current school board to go to the state & force Hempfield to take us. Not when some of them benefit from keeping Col schools, Strickler has a wife who is a teacher at Col. There truly is only one answer to this fiasco, consolidation. Taxpayers in this town have got to force this issue. If an elected leader doesn't feel this way than they aren't in that position for the benefit of the tacpayers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Maybe we need to get identify and get together with other schools in the State of PA that are in the same position as Columbia and form a coalition to see how we can best get the State to help us make the necessary chages

      Delete
  5. Some great ideas, next step...go to council meetings and sign up to speak. Council cannot ignore a large group of residents and it just might make them sweat a bit if they begin to draw a crowd at the meetings. Maybe a group of residents under the name "residents for tax reform".

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. yes, "residents for reform ", it's a lot more then just tax reform !

      Delete
  6. The condo idea is great, especially with the renewed interest in the borough and river activities. The Smithsonian gave Columbia a boost and we must take advantage of that to promote life here.

    ReplyDelete
  7. People don't go to council meetings because they don't speak up and you can't hear what they say they look at their notes while talking. They need a better PA system. Even someone with hearing aids in the front row said he couldn't hear. If people could hear maybe they would come. Good idea fill the room

    ReplyDelete
  8. I said it before and i will say it again, people with money in this town do as they please! Section 8"s are easy money for these landlords. Some are 14 units with 2 parking places!! Some have 2 bedrooms with 10 people living there! 16 full time police for what the hell knows what for!! Money,Money, and more money for the people with the Money!! School dist. is just going to hell. C.B.A.A. should be ashamed for wanting parents to donate toilet paper and other stupid things!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You should be ashamed to criticize a non profit organization like the CBAA. The organization is run entirely by volunteers. I imagine you are one of the parents who does not help during fundraisers and never volunteers to help with the concession stand. Get off your butt and make a difference in the lives of a few youth in Columbia.

      Delete
    2. A few rich youths!!

      Delete
    3. This donation request came along with information on a Pass, Punt and Kick contest that we have for the players. We ask that players try to get monetary sponsors for this event as a fundraiser for the organization. This year we added the option of donating non-perishable items or a monetary donation. Sending in a donation is NOT MANDATORY for the player to participate in the contest. If the person who made this post would have read the letter closely they would know that.

      People do not realize how few people spend countless hours helping this organization. It becomes a 2nd full time job and takes away a lot of time from our own families. It is time for some other people to step up and help! We are always open to new ideas on keeping costs down for the athletes in our community.

      Delete
  9. Lanc City also has parking garages that are convenient for the folks buying these condos. The one thing really hurting Cola businesses is no parking.
    The one thing that would really spur development, & housing prices in this town is if it would become Hempfield School Dist
    Nobodys talking about what impact a change of school districts would have on this town.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The developers didn't want a parking garage !, they wanted a variance to provided one per unit rather then two per unit !! If a developer wants to spend 5 million to build luxury town houses in the downtown and gets turned down by zoning, it's not a parking garage problem ! Maybe it's a political problem. Maybe the developer didn't have the wrong partners.

      Delete
  10. We need both, school district change and some upscale rental units or condos near the river. The units would be easily accessible to route 30 for work commute. There is not ONE solution. It will take many forms, some of which may fail, but it has to start somewhere. This is why council must hear ideas from borough residents. It takes some brainstorming and more than talk...follow-through. The Turkey Hill Experience was absolutely packed on a recent weekday. The parking lot was completely full. I saw the same thing at Burning Bridge antiques on a recent weekday. The new brewery, Columbia Kettle Works, is a great addition as well. Columbia is on the right track, we need to keep pushing forward.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. With the new highway, the entire river front area will be the future hot spot. Any land even touching that new road is sure to on the radar of the real estate developers.

      Delete
  11. Why go to a council meeting about the high school taxes they do not have anything to do with it now that we sold the sewer plant to LASA.borough taxes will be higher

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The plant was becoming a liability. It was not in compliance.

      Delete
  12. The plant could have been saved when the money comes in for the incinerator plant and the cell tower. :O)

    ReplyDelete
  13. Originally, in 1729 Columbia was included in Hempfield Township. In 1814 it was incorporated as a borough, with further annexation in 1904. Perhaps it's time for Columbia to return to Hempfield. Current statistics show Hempfield as 44,000. square miles with a population of 41,000. Hempfield is comprised of 2 townships and 2 boroughs, maybe Columbia could be the third. After all, adding Columbia would only be an extra couple of square miles. Maybe then our tax burden would ease.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. well, in the 1800's it was an Indian village, so maybe better yet, tear down the whole damn town and start over, because every government body that came along since the Indians were here screwed it up one way or another

      Delete
  14. the wwtp WAS and IS in compliance. Norm fabricates stories to pressure people. YES the wwtp could be saved....and either updated or a new one built...the Boro ALREADY has the BOND to do that (has had it for aobut 3 years!) the Boro can do the same thing-lock in a monthly rate instead of going by usage....that was stated at numerous mtgs. selling to LASA is the single biggestmistake this Boro could ever make.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is a dead issue. LASA will take care of Columbias sewer professionally & cheaper. We got rid of one thing Columbia mishandled for years, now lets move onto other issues
      Columbia Sewer Co
      RIP

      Delete
    2. This is not a dead issue. There is no such thing in Columbia as a dead issue !

      Delete
    3. The fat lady has sung

      Delete
  15. Citizens need to storm Harrisburg and write their representatives to support bill HB 76 and SB 76, The Property Tax Independence Act. This will give the relief that property owners deserve and make all the renters start paying their fair share. Read the bill it is a very good thing http://www.ptcc.us/solution.htm.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ok, we'll all go to Harrisburg tomorrow, lol.

      Delete
  16. If we would become a part of Hempfield we would be able to get rid of duplicate services at the school district, police, & boro. A lot of administrative positions, buildings like school administrative offices, superintendant, police chief & much much more could be eliminated that would be a duplication of services.
    The longer we wait to make this happen, the more taxpayer money that's wasted.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. IF

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aT-nS_ESpbM

      Delete
  17. I am a landlord and I rent to 10 people with 10 unites in my building. There is only enough parking for 2 so my people have to take up parking elsewhere. Its not their fought, its the towns!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. good point - we really can't blame that problems that over crowded apartment buildings bring on the people that bought the buildings on the open market !

      Delete
  18. Effective school district maintenance requires critical mass. Columibia is too small to provide the efficiencies of critcal mass. The ultimate solution is obvious. Take the emotion out of it and move on.

    ReplyDelete
  19. why is it the towns fault??? put off street parking in for your tenants. it most likely was a SINGLE OWNED ONE FAMILY HOME.....its time to stop the landlords and tenants from taking taking taking from all the hardWORKING taxpaying homeowners. EACH TENTANT SHOULD PAY A "TAX" TO RENT AND LIVE IN THE BORO. the money the landlord pays is NOT NEAR ENOUGH TO COVER PAYING FOR ALL THESE HUNDREDS OF KIDS GOING TO OUR SCHOOLS.

    ReplyDelete
  20. I would fully support a fee or tax PER RENTAL UNIT in lieu of paying a singular tax on a property that is not occupied by a single family or a business- if those same people equally consume the resources of the borough and the school district, why not share the expenses? Equity for all!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. duh ! - we're talking about jacking up the rental licenses, not making your property tax per unit instead of per property. Increasing the rental license fee to $500. per unit in addition to the regular property tax ( which is probably also too low if you have ten units ) . Hopefully the increase would encourage landlords to either de densify, and/or raise rents and find better market rate tenants.

      Delete
  21. The only people buying in Columbia are landlords. Make it too hard for them in this town & you'll have empty houses paying no taxes.
    Once again you have to make the town conducive to homeowners. Right now with the school district any potential homeowner with kids will not want their children going to Col. School Dist.
    Retirees will not want to move into this town because of the high taxes. Think from a potential homeowners standpoint, would you move into Columbia.
    The only way to make Columbia a homeowner friendly town is to get rid of that school district.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It doesn't really matter if all homes are owned by landlords, if the rents are market rate ( $1000. and up for single family houses ), and the tenants are working class people, Otherwise, if would be better to have empty houses then to have an over abundance of low income and section 8 housing jamming up the school districts. Jack the rental fees and let the houses go empty for now, then tear them down later and and build better ones or plant trees.

      Delete
  22. You mean they have it so damn easy. They pay one tax for a building of multiple units that dont have enough parking and more tenants then allowed!!! Also, this has been going on for soooo damn long that most are millionaires!! Section 8"s are way to high in Columbia!!!! If the landlords move out gooooood for this town!! Taxes are to damn high that is why Section 8"s are the way to go to make as much money and pay one tax on BIG Buildings that rent!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  23. The school dist. is done for! They should have not even raised taxes do to the district folding up! The over paid board that does nothing is a shame for this town!!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  24. the landlords SHOULD pay taxes on the building BUT the tenants SHOULD pay taxes to live in this Boro and send thier kids to our schools. PERIOD. and not a $10 head tax. $500 for 1 or 2 children and $1000.00 for more than 2....the landlords pay a little bit of nothing to register thieri properties. i agree. raise it and get rid of the scum

    ReplyDelete
  25. I can not believe someone has the nerve to talk down on the CBAA - a not for profit organization that has Volunteers that give countless hours of their free time so the youth of Columbia has a place to play sports! Not only are you so ignorant to understand that the donation request is so we can keep registration costs down so all kids can play but you don't even have the nerve to show your identity. I the treasurer of the CBAA ( and by the way, my child is no longer in the program) and my name is Kim Clark, or previously known as Kim Clark. Please feel free to come to our next board meeting, or as another poster said, get off your butt and volunteer, and make a difference!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kim, why did you take your child out of the program?

      Delete
    2. If you hang around down town or outskirts of town you would hear more about the running of C.B.A.A. and its not good. We need grant money bad! Restrooms are bad!

      Delete
    3. The CBAA does not own Gladfelter field;Gladfelter foundation does. Although CBAA pays for field repairs, maintenance, football and baseball field lights, and insurance, CBAA can not control the bathroom situation other than attempting to keep it clean. Upgrades to the facility must go through the foundation.

      Delete
    4. Then the Gladfelter foundation has failed. Its time to move on and get out of the past. We need to merge with Hempfield!! If not, then CBAA is done for.

      Delete
  26. Sorry, previously known as Kim Rhoads.

    ReplyDelete
  27. yes the rental properties and the school district are killing this town....first create a mandatory tax for ALL adult tenants that have children in school (only) do NOT tax the elderly-its a sin. make the tenants PAY for the services they steal in this town.
    the school district can NOT afford what about $3 million JUST for 3 top admin salaries. what the heck doesn't the school board understand. throw them out and replace with all new members....BYE tom strickler.

    ReplyDelete
  28. They are doing a good job, just my opinion. The jobs they have I would love to have. Millionaires row!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  29. My son went the whole way up through the program, he is no longer in the program because he is 15 and now in high school sports. I still volunteer my time because if I didn't, along with the others, the program would not survive. Again instead of putting down an organization that does nothing but give 100% to the youth of this time please come to a board meeting, donate your time and find out first hand what we do!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Instead of making bad assumptions and standing downtown listening to hearsay,come to a CBAA board meeting to find out first hand running a non profit organization is challenging considering the lack of man power. Just like any business, without the manpower there will be disjointed efforts and lack of organization. If you and your group who "hang" downtown would only put the same effort of complaining about how the CBAA is ran and use those efforts to actually get off your butt and volunteer your time or expertise in running an organization maybe all our problems would be solved. Until you actually become involved, you don't have a clue!

      Delete