A lot of our taxes go right across the street

April 14, 2010 06:00 am

With Thursday’s deadline for income tax returns, there is a focus on taxes this week that often turns to complaints. What we forget, when we gripe about the tax bill, is where taxes go.

A large chunk comes back to Curry County.

First, while you have out all the records for the tax deadline, make a chart for your own household. On tax forms, find your federal income tax total, your Oregon income tax total, and the property taxes on your home. Now, if you are an employee with a W-2 statement, find your total 2009 contributions to Social Security and Medicare, and double those numbers – because your employer matched them.

For most households with a paycheck, we’re willing to bet that Social Security and Medicare taxes are the biggest numbers. That money stayed right here, going to help our older neighbors. In fact, three times more money comes back to Curry County than we pay into the system.

We did a quick search and found some rough figures: In 2004, the direct federal payments to individuals in Curry County were $103,182,000 for retirement and disability. Based on job counts, average wages for 2008, and tax rates for Social Security and Medicare, Curry County workers paid in about $34,800,000 –  only one dollar for every three that came back to our neighbors. More precise figures would be interesting.

As for federal income taxes, residents of Curry County got back another $3,000 per person in the 2004 figures for other federal spending.  Looking at your other taxes, most of your property tax bill (at the lowest rates in the state) and a little more than half your state income tax are for education – most of it spent at the local level.

Yes, it’s easy to gripe about taxes, and there are abuses, but we all need to understand what we’re really complaining about. A big chunk of our taxes go right across the street – to help support our elderly neighbors and educate our children.