If you have ever complained about high property taxes or local sales taxes, it helps to understand how your money is put back into the community. While you may not personally benefit from every tax dollar collected, your city or county provide a number of services funded by taxpayers that improve the quality of life for individuals and the community at large.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
Your local tax money helps pay for emergency services, law enforcement, water and sewer services, government-funded transportation, parks and recreation, public schools and community centers.
Emergency Services and Law Enforcement
Core safety services provided by most communities include fire and rescue and law enforcement. Tax dollars help support new, expanded or renovated fire stations, police departments and equipment and vehicles. They also help support enough staff to effectively manage community needs. Well-staffed and well-managed fire stations ensure optimized response times to fires and emergencies. An adequately funded police force ensures community coverage to deter and respond to criminal activity.
Water and Sewer Services
The public works department typically oversees community provision of water and sewer services paid for by taxes. Tax dollars go to developing, modifying and updating the infrastructure that supports underground sanitation and water flow to commercial and residential buildings. On top of the tax dollars that support improvements and repairs, residents usually pay monthly bills for water and sewer services.
Government-Funded Services for Transportation
A significant portion of tax revenue for government-funded services is spent on roadways and transportation systems that support personal mobility and economic viability in communities. Road development, improvement and repairs are ongoing and require significant investments. As communities grow, roads are often expanded to adapt to increased traffic flow. Potholes and deteriorating road conditions require constant repairs. City transportation or public works also repaints road lines as they fade. The community also budgets a certain amount of revenue to snow removal during winter months. Developing and maintaining public transportation facilities and systems is also common, such as with local subways or buses, airports or boating docks.
Parks and Recreation
Most communities have a parks and recreation department that oversees parks, other public land areas and community recreational programs. Budgets in this department go to new park developments, equipment repair, yard and tree maintenance and parking lot and sidewalk snow removal. Landscaping and maintenance of public cemeteries is also sometimes necessary. Community tax dollars may also support recreational programs, including ball field upkeep, sports leagues and weekend outdoor events and programs for youth and seniors.
Schools and Community Centers
Public schools, public buildings and community centers require development, expansion and maintenance as well. Property taxes are often increased to fund new products, such as an aquatic center, library or community center. Tax money also goes toward operation of municipal government, including the payment of salaries to the mayor, council members and office staff. Each year, repair and maintenance budgets are established for upkeep on all public buildings and facilities.
- Tom Brakefield/Stockbyte/Getty Images