The News & Observer‘s article this week on Raleigh City Manager Ruffin Hall’s first budget proposal features one of my least favorite journalistic devices. Writer Colin Campbell tells us:
The proposed tax increase equates to about $63 per year in additional taxes for a $300,000 home.
This is useful information, and I’m glad it’s included. What the article lacks — and what almost every other article on similar topics also omits — is a follow-up line spelling out the total tax bill for a $300,000 home once the tax increases. That context is important.
Does the extra $63 make a difference if you know that the owner of a $300,000 home already faces a city property tax bill of nearly $1,148? How about if you add in the fact that the combined city and county property tax bill for that home is almost $2,750? Different readers might have a different sense of whether the extra $63 seems worthwhile, but the other figures remind all readers that the city already collects significant sums from local property owners.
As with any issue involving tax changes, the proper context is critical.