Some Property Assessors
Ignore Rising Land Values

Joseph Thompson

[Reprinted from an undated pamphlet, Simple Talks on Taxation, published by the author]

... That's quite a fine building across the street there. Medical Center?
... Yeah. Medical Center.
... Yes, it's a great addition to a city, a building like that.
... You betcher. It's a great addition to the tax roll, too! It's worth ten times the ones was there before.
... Yes, buildings like that make a city. We ought to have more of them.
... You betcher! I'd like to be appraising a dozen more.
... Oh - you're an appraiser?
... Yeah.
... In real estate?
... Nope. Assessor's office.
... Well, I think you'll be appraising - not a dozen, maybe, but a couple at least.
... Nope. Land's too high. What they're asking for the land now, a man couldn't get his money back in fifty years.
... Then how about the Medical Center there? Was the land cheaper when they bought?
... Some. It belonged to old man McCurdy. He paid thirteen grand for it, sixteen years ago. When the Medics offered him Two hundred grand for it, he let them have it Figured it would make his other pieces go for more.
... I s'pose, with that increase in value, you were advancing his taxes rather heavily, too?
... How was that, again?
... I suppose that, as the property advanced from Thirteen thousand to Two hundred thousand grand, McCurdy's taxes went up in proportion.
... Hell no! His buildings were old - out-of-date, so we assessed them way down.
... And the land?
... We appraised it at Sixty per cent of his Thirteen. That's our regular scale.
... Will you tax the Medical land at the same rate?
... Gosh no! With that fine building on it, we'll hitch it up good! We'll assess, with the building, for forty times what it brought us when it belonged to McCurdy.
... Will you raise the tax on all the land in the neighborhood?
... Nope. O'ny when they's a new building goes up.
... But hasn't all the land gone up in value?
... They're asking more for it, but what in hell has the Assessor to do with that?
... McCurdy was certainly lucky - pret-near a Hundred and Forty thousand after Capital Gains tax. Does the city get any of that?
... How would the city get any of his money?
... I was just wondering. If the city nursed him and his old buildings 'til they got to Two hundred grand, it's a shame the city doesn't get a cut put of the profit.
... Oh, the city'll get it all right. Taxing the Medics.
... But - Gee! The Medical people already paid McCurdy for what the city should a' got! Then when they improve the city, they get socked for doing a good thing!
... Say, you aint a Commie, are you?
... A Commie! Why? What makes you ask that?
... Well, you don't seem to like die -way we do business.
... Does that make me a Commie?
... Kinder.
... No. I'm no Commie. If I was, I'd be putting the Medical people out of business, and take their building. I'd be for treating them worse than you're talking of doing.
... Hey! You can't get away with telling me I talk like a Commie!
... Aw, I was o'ny kiddin'. But it will take a lot of taxing before the city gets as much as McCurdy got for nothing. The city'll never really get it back.
... Get it back?
... Well The city made it.
... City hell. McCurdy made it.
... Sure. Mac got it but we all created it When I said "made," I meant - let's say "constructed it."
... Who's "we"?
... You and me and the rest of us.
... What in hell did you and me have to do with it?
... Well, like everyone else in town, we're here.
... What's that got to do with it?
... If nobody was here, how much would the Medical lot be worth?
... If nobody was here it wouldn't be worth nothin'. Any fool'd know that!
... But there are plenty of fools who don't know what belongs to them and what doesn't.
... That's for sure.
... Did you ever hear of Abou Ben Adhem?
... Sure. In school. "Abou Ben Adhem's name led all the rest."
... And did you know that in the list of fools that don't know what belong to who, the average Assessor's name leads all the rest?
... Say, I'm tired of your talk and your wise cracks. I've wasted my time long enough. We assessors know our business and we don't need any advice. You ought to get yourself a soap box. I'm going.
... Goodbye, Mr. Deputy Assessor. (Soliloquy) If I thought you really knew your business, I'd promote you from ignoramus to criminal! But you don't.