Saturday, 9 October 2010

Prudent Local Governance

From time to time I've visited the town of Vail on this blog as an example of a small, self-run municipality of some 5,000 souls, providing its own police force, fire service, libraries, public transport, refuse and waste and other local services from local sales tax. Vail is the antithesis to the national police force for which the sinister ACPO are battling, the central State beloved by Labour, and the arrogance of Whitehall in its denial of local capacity to govern. 

Today I want to mention Vail Bonds. Vail has attracted substantial external investment to develop an area of the town known as Lionshead for new housing. However, investors don't provide the infrastructure or the high-quality public spaces that make such developments complete. For this, Vail has just agreed to issue $12.5m of bonds to finance a transit and welcome centre, improved public library and road and streetscape works including a new car park. Vail runs its own free bus service, popular and widely used, that frees the city centre from congestion and provides clean, safe and frequent services to the outlying residential areas. 

The total interest to be paid by Vail on these bonds averages 4.2%. The town says;
No new taxes will be associated with the TIF bonds. The bonds will be repaid over 20 years by incremental property tax revenues generated within the TIF district.
And there you have it; Lionshead's new residents will pay new property taxes, and over 20 years a part of these will pay for the capital costs of their own public realm. Vail's other residents will not be charged, and indeed may well take good advantage of the tax-exempt benefits of a proportion of the bonds, investing in their own town, believing in their own community. In Dave's words, 'owning it'.  

Being allowed to run the village hall, or even being allowed to set up a private school, isn't Localism. Without true local autonomy, and the real devolution of power given by tax-raising and bond-issuing powers, all the 'Big Society' may achieve is to entrench and support the central State, offering little more than placebos and panaceas and cosmetic change to a nation hungry to be free of Statist shackles.    


Demetrius said...

Property taxes? Well, yes, many jurisdictions have them as a necessary way of raising money from those who have wealth. In the UK, however, the idea is about as popular as bubonic plague.

Weekend Yachtsman said...

I'm not going to comment on property taxes (Wadders will be along in a minute to do that) but I will just point out something Jerry Pournelle is always saying - "if you want self- government you need people willing to govern", by which he does not mean the current inescapably corrupt political class.

Clearly they have such people in Vail, but here in the UK do they still exist?