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The City Café

For those interested in sharing ideas and perspectives regarding local government.

It is interesting that citizens do not know more about their local government taxes. Citizens are using local government services daily (water, sewer, garbage, libraries, roads, parks) yet, they have no idea how these services are funded. And a better question is, do citizens change their tax preferences with increased knowledge? This graph illustrates data from our Dan Jones conducted Tax Survey that indicates, that yes tax preferences do change with increased knowledge.

This is the issue Brian Roberts and I explore in our paper Citizen’s Blank Check. We presented the findings of our study last week at the APPAM (Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management) conference in Madison. The response to the data and paper was excellent. Our session titled, Understanding Taxes and Tax Incentives, was attended by 20 to 25 academics and bureaucrats. The session included a panel of three papers, with each presenter taking 15 minutes to present, then discussion and Q & A. There was significant interest in the ULCT tax knowledge and perception data. It is surprising to most that public perception isn’t greater regarding local taxes. I guess the idea that we know what is closer more is not consistent when it comes to local taxes.

One interesting suggestion was to explore whether new homeowners have better property tax knowledge than “seasoned” homeowners. The logic is individuals who have made a recent home purchase have looked closely at their property tax bill for the new property. I’m not sure what the results would be, I’m inclined to say that it wouldn’t matter. Maybe it will be something we’ll look to explore more. In the meantime (if you are very inquisitive or love taxes) you can read our paper here.

A couple of other interesting conference sessions…

  • Obesity and Public Policy (here)
  • Married and Poor (here)
  • Neighborhood Economic Development (here)

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