It is snowy and cold here in Moravia, New York, my hometown. Moravia is in Central New York’s Finger Lakes region. I was born in Maine and moved to N.Y when I was six years old. After nine years in a suburban tract house outside Syracuse, my family moved out here in the countryside. It was one of the best things that has ever happened to me. Except for a year of school in Vermont, I’ve always lived here.
I have loved this place. The rolling, fertile farmland, lakes, streams, gullies, hardwood forests, and even the winter snow and cold, all add up to a remarkably beautiful environment, one that is well-suited to living the “good life.”
I have a friend who lives on a very nice 200-acre farm in these parts. He never travels on a vacation away from home. “Why would I want to?” he asks me before saying, “I already live in Paradise.”
Granted, New York is blighted with more than its fair share of cities, but they can be avoided. And there are so many beautiful little rural towns and villages, like Moravia, that it offsets the ugly cities. There is, however, a blight on this state that can not be avoided, and it is on the verge of becoming very serious.
I’m speaking of that blight known as government taxation and over regulation. It’s enough to ruin paradise.
This is on my mind because I got my property tax bill a few days ago. I own 1.5 acres with a plain house of less than 1,500 square foot. I also have a shop that measures 24 x 32. And I’m out in the countryside. My property tax bill is $1,439.61. When school taxes come due, the amount will be roughly the same as property taxes.
A neighbor up the road has 50 acres of woods with a doublewide trailer and a small pole barn. Their property taxes are almost $3,000.
I can afford to pay my taxes, but I know there are people around here who are struggling with their tax burden. I have a close family member who is old, retired, sick, with no savings, and on a fixed monthly income of Social Security. He can not afford to pay his taxes on a run-down old farmhouse and 25 acres of mostly swampland.
This reality makes me angry. Any government system of taxation that drives people from their homes and land is immoral. It is evil. That’s what I think.
It is my understanding that New York State has one of the highest property tax rates in the nation. And now, to add insult to injury, this state is in serious financial trouble. Booming Wall street profits have contributed many hundreds of millions of dollars to state coffers in recent years. Now, with the crash of wall street, and the loss of so much, the state has lost a huge income source. N.Y taxpayers are now left holding the bill for overgrown government.
Seeing the handwriting on the wall, our governor has proposed 88 new taxes and fees. An 18% “obesity tax” on non-diet soft drinks has garnered national attention. He also wants state employees to forgo a 3% yearly raise that their union recently got them. There are more ideas being proposed. But resistance to cutting the budget is strong. Nobody wants to give up any government money to help alleviate the fast-approaching budget crisis. It is a train wreck in the making.
It is impossible for overgrown government to cut its size to any significant degree. There is too much momentum. Too many special interests. Too much politics as usual.
But, clearly, the size of state government, and the scope of government regulations, must be reduced. There is no other viable option. Unfortunatley, it isn’t going to happen easily, and isn’t going to be pretty. N.Y. residents (especially property owners) are going to pay dearly in the years ahead.
To compound the problem, the population of N.Y. is sure to decline as a result of the increasing tax burden. There will be an even-greater Exodus out of New York. This will make the tax burden even more onerous for those who remain behind.
I have told my wife, The Lovely Marlene, that we need to start thinking more seriously about where we will move to. For now, we are tied to this place because we have two elderly parents who need our help. Then there is the matter of my job. It is a state job. It pays the bills. But I think the state will have to eliminate my job in the years ahead. Really, they should eliminate it. That will make it much easier to leave New York.
Marlene has reservations about leaving. She has some close friends here. She doesn’t like the thought of leaving her friends. But I’m of the mind that it will be an economic necessity for us. I will never have an abundance of money. We must find a place where property taxes are low, where we can live simply, inexpensively, close to the land, and be secure from the burden of immoral property taxation.
Where is that place?
Michael Bunker recently blogged about Why he chose to move to Central Texas. His reasons are very compelling. But I’m not convinced that is the best place for my family to go. I have an aversion to hot, dry places (not to mention big rattlesnakes and hurricanes). I’m more of a forest dweller. And I like the change of seasons.
I’ve been thinking about the Tennessee/Kentucky area. I understand the taxes are low there. Western PA sounds appealing but I imagine their property taxes must be up there. Does anyone actually live in West Virginia? I have a mail order business that ships things all over the country. I almost never send anything to West Virginia (Maybe people in West Virginia are waiting for a really good sale on my Whizbang Books).
It occurred to me that maybe I should return to the land where my roots run deep—Aroostook County Maine. That is where my parents and grandparents and great grandparents lived. Like Central Texas, northern Maine has few people and is far from big cities. But the land is fertile and beautiful. Just check out Paul Cyr’s Photo Album if you need proof. The land is also reasonably priced. I have no idea what the taxes are.
Then there is the question of how do you move to a strange place, with relatively little money, and find a community of like-minded people? The Amish (who are now moving into Northern Maine) move in groups. They bring community with them.
There are plenty of questions and concerns and unknowns that come with uprooting one’s family and transplanting it to another place. I feel like a North American Abraham being called out of Ur of the Chaldees to a foreign place. The call is a quiet one right now. But I have a feeling it will get louder.
I welcome your insights and suggestions.
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