What do taxing districts do?

The town of Savoy, just south of Champaign, makes a point of having lower taxes. They do so by not providing many of the amenities that Champaign and Urbana provide—no bus service, no public library, etc. Residents, since they can be free riders on Champaign and Urbana services, like the situation just fine.

A few years back, the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District was looking to expand its service area into Savoy. Property owners in Savoy didn’t like that idea.

There are rules allowing taxing districts to annex adjacent areas and begin providing services—and assessing the tax. The rules make it pretty tough for an area to opt out; just about the only way is to already be in the taxing district of another service provider. With that in mind, Savoy created its own mass transit district a few years ago (the Champaign Southwest Mass Transit District). The idea was that it wouldn’t provide any mass transit service and wouldn’t levy any tax.

All very sad, of course, for anyone like me who uses the bus service, along with anyone who thinks that public services are a good idea. Which meant there was a bit of schadenfreude when, as anyone with any sense had foreseen, Savoy’s transit district promptly levied a small tax (to pay the legal cost of fighting CUMTD’s attempt to annex areas within the district anyway). Taxing districts levy taxes. It’s what they do.

Now we’re getting a bit more schadenfreude: People within Savoy’s transit district (the new YMCA and an apartment complex) are asking the district to provide transit services.

It’s funny, but it’s also kind of sad. I mean, the people who built the apartment complex and the YMCA surely knew that they were building in a place where there was no transit service. I’m sure they picked those locations because the land was cheap. Didn’t they stop to think that the reason the land was cheap was because of the lack of services?

On the one hand, I’m glad to see the Savoy transit district getting pressured to provide transit services. Providing transit services are what transit districts are supposed to do. And I have no sympathy for the residents who created the district in the hopes of dodging a tax—only a moron creates a taxing district while expecting not to be taxed.

But I’m still kind of sad. If transit service to the YMCA is important (and the YMCA says the lack of it is their visitor’s number one complaint), wouldn’t it have made more sense to build the new YMCA within the CUMTD service area? Instead, they build where they know there’s no service, and then complain about it: More sprawl and more bickering.

Of course, those are just more reasons why the Champaign Southwest Mass Transit District was a bad idea. I mean, really! Who’s so stupid as to create a taxing district hoping not to be taxed?

Jackie on the Bus

Jackie on the Bus (photo by Philip Brewer)
Jackie on the Bus (photo by Philip Brewer)

We were both heading out yesterday, Jackie to downtown Champaign for lunch and then a meeting with her fellow spinners, I to the south end of the research park where the Fitness Center was letting local Yahoo employees (and friends like me) renew our discount memberships.

Jackie’s bus left three minutes before mine, so I had a chance to take this photo.  I did some pretty heavy processing in iPhoto, mostly adjusting the levels so as to emphasize Jackie’s face at the cost of washing out things like the brick wall behind the bus.  I’m rather pleased with the way it came out.