Lawmakers in Washington state decided to curb property tax growth through a fixed cap. But as with many approaches, a simple approach in a complex system leads to unintended consequences.
The problems were considerable. The extreme measure has forced towns to reduce police protection, decommission fire trucks, close municipal pools, and abandon public safety projects. Many wonder if the cap did any good.
We’ll get to the local politics in a moment. But instead of debating the merits of property taxes: let’s remember a fundamental fact of process improvement and system design: drastic measures generally produce drastic results.
In this case, an op-ed piece in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer describes the situation:
Local governments, which use property taxes to finance many core services, are not flush, either. That is especially true of smaller jurisdictions, cities and counties in mostly rural parts of the state. In those places, [the 1% tax cap] has been a disaster, forcing deep cuts in basic services—such things as police and emergency services—that we all rely on for our basic security and well-being.
Tax policy is complex, but the complaint made is simple. The inability to provide basic services was never an intended goal of the 1% cap, just an unfortunate consequence. Dramatic changes in procedure or policy might win votes and be tremendously popular, but drastic measures usually lead to drastic results. The intensity and variation of outcomes is hard to control.
The business consultants at AccelaWork help organizations study, understand and implement organizational change. However, our focus is on long-term sustained effort as opposed to instant, overnight solutions. If you are looking to improve business processes and recognize that improvement takes time and commitment, reach out to experts to schedule an appointment. We would love to help you steadily and productively transform into a more effective organization.