The editorials and letters-to-the-editor often go beyond facts in an attempt to find the truth. Truth can be defined in all kinds of ways - philosophers have been debating the meaning of truth for thousands of years. One thing is certain - truth ain't just a big pile of facts.
A letter in this week's Hillsborough Beacon has a great example of this. The letter writer tells us that in 2007, Hillsborough's municipal taxes went up 10.7%. Our township committee told us that our municipal tax increase raised our property taxes 1.4%. Both of these statements are facts - but which is the truth?
You can read the Hillsborough Township press release about the tax increase here. This is the relevant paragraph:
Last year’s $2.86 total Hillsborough tax rate will see the municipal portion rise by 4 cents or 1.4%. The new municipal tax rate will be 39.8 cents per $100 of assessed value under the proposed budget.
How does 1.4% turn into 10.7%? The municipal portion of your tax bill is tiny, only about 13% of the bill. It takes a 10.7% increase in MUNICIPAL taxes to raise the TOTAL tax bill 1.4%.
Let's look at it another way. Hillsborough could actually DOUBLE your municipal taxes - increase all the budgets of every department to provide unheard of services to the residents - and your overall property tax bill would only go up 13%. Incredible.
Taxpayers don't normally separate the different portions of the tax bill when thinking about how much property tax they pay. Combine this with the fact that Hillsborough is the entity that bills the taxes and collects the taxes - and you can see why the 2007 tax increase was described as being 1.4%. That's the number that gives the most information - the most useful information - to the Hillsborough taxpayer.
You won't read this information on the editorial page. Instead you get something like this:
Now add to this – our political “leaders” lied to us last year when they said taxes only went up 1.4 percent in the municipal budget and so municipal taxes, actually went up 10.7 percent.
Which contains no useful information at all - despite being "full of facts".
I leave it up to you to decide which speaks to the truth.