I can appreciate the choices facing Juneau residents in this upcoming municipal election, as they are faced with a question about whether mandatory disclosure of real estate sales should continue. As a resident of Juneau, it’s an interesting question, but maybe not so directly threatening as some would argue.
As a homeowner, I’m really not so worried about the city government knowing what we paid for our house. I regularly share so much other information with not just the city and state, or federal government for that matter, that it’s pretty clear to me that there are systems in place to protect what I share. I’m much more concerned with the apps on my phone than how our elected officials and municipal staff charged with public service might use this data.
I kind of like the idea that providing this information might improve how the city makes decisions about taxation and valuation. What I don’t want my city officials to be doing is guessing at it. That’s like directing the IRS to tax me but not giving them my payroll information. It’s not a privacy issue, I’d really just prefer the government wasn’t making decisions about what I owe based on a thumb in the wind.
Honestly, it doesn’t seem fair either. If they get it wrong, and value/tax me too much, then I’m picking up someone else’s share. If it’s too little, then my neighbor is. It feels most fair if what I owe is based on what I own, and our city has enough information provided to it to make that decision accurately.
When I get a flyer in the mail or see a sign up about voting against disclosure, for privacy’s sake, I cringe. On the one hand, I know there are systems in place to protect privacy, so a privacy argument feels disingenuous. On the other hand, I know that if that argument is successful, it will mean that it will remain likely in Juneau for inaccurate valuation and taxation to continue, and whoever is making that argument is okay with guessing.
I can also appreciate the goals of the assessor, who has placed a priority on having enough information so that they can make transparent, accountable, and responsible decisions about valuing property and taxing it appropriately. It’s just good governance.
As it stands, local elected officials have established the rules for how this works, to protect the public interest in Juneau. I like that as residents we have a lot of influence within this local level of decision-making.
In a community that does have a property tax, and where valuation is tied to school district funding, I want taxation to be fair and accurate, I want valuation to result in responsible decision-making, and I want systems in place that preserve privacy while promoting fairness. Juneau’s decision on this front has been consistent with these principles.
• Nils Andreassen is a Juneau homeowner.