Thursday, April 8, 2010

The voting booth and your finances

Man standing behind curtain in booth, low section

One area I believe people do not consider when evaluating their financial situation is their performance in the voting booth. I worked as an election inspector on April 6 and my city faced several races and two referenda. The most obvious effect on my tax burden was a referendum that would exceed the state's tax levy for funding the city's schools. This would mean for the next four years, my property taxes would definitely increase, with the fourth and final year seeing a $275 fee added to my tax bill. Personally, I voted no on the resolution, but the entire voting community ended up passing the measure. Thus, I know my property tax bill will be increasing by more than I have seen the past few years. Better save more money.

A less direct but certainly important effect of voting is the selection of local alderpeople, mayors and county or regional board members (terms used in the United States). I have witnessed the turnout experienced during a Presidential election and that is wonderful. However, the most direct effect of your vote can be seen locally not nationally. If you vote for a fiscally conservative or growth-oriented mayor or alderperson, that will affect your finances. If you do not vote, you do not have a voice in the democracy. While I am glad there was over 55% turnout in my voting ward on April 6, I still wonder where the nearly 45% of the rest were.

Remember, local council and board members of all stripes and mayors live and work in your community. They answer to you and are there to listen to your comments and represent you in government. Exercise your right as a citizen and make sure to vote every time there is an election. These elected representatives determine how the city/town/village spends your tax dollars and how much they want to levy you each year. It is difficult to support or defeat a measure without all the voices in a community, and harder to control your finances without voting in elections and holding your representatives accountable.

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