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The Williamson County Commissioners Court is being urged to adopt the effective tax rate raise taxes in order to push through a pay raise for county employees. After looking at the proposed tax hike, one advocate said, “There it is, in black and white. 3.43 a month. Cheaper than one happy meal.”

Oh! Well, if you put it that way. Just a “happy meal,” okay, well, go ahead then.

Wait a minute, just how many “happy meals” are Williamson County residents already providing? If the median home value is $188,860, and the county rate is $0.468324 per $100 valuation, then the median tax bill is about $884.48; roughly 257 “happy meals.” You also pay property taxes on a median priced home to:

  • Your City-in Round Rock @ $.39661, annually $749.04, or 218 “happy meals”
  • Your ISD-in Round Rock ISD @ $1.3324, annually $2,516.37,  or 733 “happy meals”
  • Austin Community College @ $.0946, annually $178.6, or 52 “happy meals”

This brings your total property tax bill to 1,260 “happy meals” each year!

But wait, we also provide “happy meals” pay income taxes to the Federal Government. According to 2008 Census estimates, the average household income is $69,745. If you are married, filing jointly, with two dependents, and you take deductions for state sales tax, your income tax bill would be only $3,499, but since the Bush tax cuts expire this year, the bill will increase to $5,637, or 1,643 “happy meals.” 

Other discernable direct taxes include those in your Electricity, water and gas bills, about $16 a month on mine, about $5 each month on our basic cable/internet service, and taxes, fees, and surcharges make up about 45% of our phone bill at $21 each month. These various taxes equal $42 a month, $504 a year, or another 147 “happy meals.”

More difficult to decipher are gas taxes; in Texas we pay $0.384 per gallon. According to the EPA, the average vehicle travels 11,720 miles each year and gets 20.4 miles per gallon, so if our family of 4 uses two vehicles, they likely purchase 1,149 gallons of gas each year and pay $441.22 in taxes, or another 129 “happy meals.”

So far we are up to 3,179 “happy meals” per year.  But wait, there’s more…

These are only the direct taxes; we all pay indirect taxes on just about everything we purchase or use since the U.S. corporate tax rate of 38% is one of the world’s highest. Next year indirect taxes will dramatically increase via new federal laws on health care, the banking industry, and possibly cap and trade, and analysts are predicting a 2011 Tax Tsunami.  Those taxes are passed on to us as increased cost for the goods and services we purchase, and will amount to thousands more “happy meals” each year.

Rather than adding more, we need to find ways to give fewer “happy meals” to our ever-growing government.  As noted economist Arthur Laffer demonstrates, lower taxes and less government spending make for a strong economy.  Budget planners for both Williamson County and cities like Round Rock need to do what most American families are doing, cutting their respective budgets to cope with reduced income.  No new projects or spending should be added this year.

That would make taxpayers happy…