I’ve been following the development of the Aquatic Centre project with great enthusiasm. It is a wonderful idea, which I enthusiastically support. I doubt I will ever make use of the center myself, but anything that enhances the community enhances the community for everyone, and the center would contribute to making Princeton a better place to live. I’m also willing to pay the parcel assessment, as part of my contribution to the community.
But a problem arises, which I offer for consideration – though Brad Hope, always responsive, is already looking into it already: the place I own consists of four parcels, owing both to the way the land was divided up 40 years ago when my mother and father bought it, and to the fact that we acquired two further small parcels twenty or so years ago, to ensure privacy.
As I understand the situation, depending on the definition of “parcel” (which I understand means “developed land”) this could mean that I would be paying up to four assessments for the Aquatic Centre, or a total of over $1,000 above my present tax bill. While much depends on the definition of “parcel”, this could potentially tax me off my land, as I am currently on a retiree’s fixed income, and find the current assessment difficult to sustain, as is – my closest neighbor, who has owned two very small lots of 25 years, is in a similar situation.
While I am willing to contribute equally with other plot-owners, it seems disproportionate that I should pay four times as much as a person owning a single parcel; or as a part-time resident – albeit of 40 years – to pay four times as much as a full-time resident with only one parcel.
Another aspect is this: down the road is a very large ranch, some 15 times larger than my acreage – yet I would be paying four times as much, owing to the way my land is parceled. This is not just, or equitable.
Another friend owns a business in Princeton, a home in town, and a lake cabin. He will be expected to pay a triple assessment, while potentially, several families living in an apartment building will pay nothing, except perhaps a share in a single assessment. It was certainly not intended, but the tax, in effect, is a punishment for investing in the town with a business and a vacation home.
And then there are those on fixed incomes…
Can this can be adjusted? Could the assessment apply per household, or per registered owner? Has there been any thought to selling bonds, or an area-wide fund-raising effort?
One way or the other, I am afraid that the Aquatic Centre proposal, as it now stands, could signal a breaking point for many residents with multiple parcels. For my part, I simply do not know how I can support a total real estate tax increase that could total around 20% of my current rate, and I suspect that I am far from alone.
A solution must be found for a proposal that falls much more heavily on one resident than on another. There can be no doubt that the Centre will be a valuable and lasting asset to the community, but without equitable adjustment of the financing, it will mean an unequal burden on a small, completely random portion of our community.