Placebook: Who Doesn’t Pay Their Taxes and Sign Their Checks?


Governments have a lot of financial leeway in this country. So do companies. And so do major nonprofit entities. Nothing illustrates that principle better than observing the latest news out of the City of Greensboro. Governing magazine has a nice synopsis of what the initial financial costs are when cities go bankrupt, which Greensboro is nowhere near. Many citizens, especially those who are in the middle class and are paying lots of income taxes,  do fear that we are not generating enough tax revenue and that their taxes are going to the wrong place. And often  cities that put themselves in bad financial situations, often do so thinking they are helping out taxpayers and other entities that come to them for money.

In the past week, the city of Greensboro has learned that the International Civil Rights Museum and Center, which was lent money after prior financial troubles,failed to sign the checks that were given, yet still received the money that the city promised to them. In addition, the organization has been in constant internal turmoil and is constantly on the wrong side of public opinion when it comes to what our cities should spend money on. There are also other human relations elements that I won’t touch on here, but clearly appear to be issues of rooted in the idea that some things just aren’t worth spending money on, especially if they continue to fail.

Yet, would this really be a problem if the city had other funds besides tax revenue? What if companies paid their fair share of taxes? The News and Record also presented an analysis of where the majority of people in Greensboro and High Point, the two largest cities in Guilford County, work. It also revealed that many of these organizations, while major revenue generators from services and providers of good steady salaries, only pay payroll taxes and don’t pay income, sales or property taxes. And yes, this is legal because they are either government entities themselves (the public K-12 school system,  the public university system, the government administration) independent nonprofit universities,  or other nonprofit service organizations and health care providers, many which are still under a nonprofit structure because they provide public services and goods that at one time were not major income generators.

Yet, these entities, especially the colleges and the hospitals have grown to become multimillion dollar industries that rival the old guard companies of development and manufacturing. Cities tout their eds and meds (along with tourist entities such as the Civil Rights Museum above) as being drivers of economic growth, but they never do so in the form of income, sales and property tax.

This is why so much emphasis has been made of bringing back big corporations that generate massive tax rates. Yet, as we have seen nationwide, that doesn’t always mean they pay taxes. Sometimes we can only hope that city governments take the proper responsibility and correct their mistakes, as the City of Greensboro did in other council votes on Tuesday night, along with allowing the citizen-funded and driven effort to create the Renaissance Co-Op to go forward, by beginning the process of selling the shopping center to Self-Help Ventures, a nonprofit committed to and successful with creating co-op entities throughout the state.

And now our other news:

Other News from North Carolina

Many thanks to Matt Lail for his awesome letter to Raleigh and finding inspiration in the one I wrote to Greensboro a few days ago. 

The first Raleigh comprehensive plan report to the city is live.

What the Dan River looks like now. Thankfully, Duke Energy customers like myself won’t be paying for the spill.

Greensboro is a finalist to host the National Folk Festival.

News and Lessons from Everywhere Else

Common sense ,but worth repeating, all building projects should consider safety first

Spain is considering becoming more of a 9-to-5 country.

While the Washington Post may have backed away from calling him a white man in its headline, Jack Evans is on his second attempt to become DC’s first elected white mayor

A great analysis of how sounds can be racialized and how that was a factor in the recent Jordan Davis case. Another analysis on all the recent killings of black children throughout the country.

A historic home where one of the first black attorneys and judges in the county lived is in danger of demolition and further decay.

While we are critical of large parking lots, they still have major potential as public spaces when emptied of their cars and sometimes with the cars in them.

And finally, a cute baby elephant in India fell into a hole near a railroad track. He was saved.

About Kristen Jeffers

I'm Kristen. Almost five years ago, I got tired of not seeing black women as nerded out about trains, better streets, riding bikes, walking not just out of necessity, tall buildings, old buildings and honestly a lot of other things. I was in grad school for community and economic development (ok, it’s actually an MPA), and I wanted to make sure people knew I existed and that I could help them do this thing called placemaking better. Five years later, I’m still doing that, although not from my hometown of Greensboro, NC, but from Kansas City, MO. I spend most of my time in Kansas City promoting better biking and walking infrastructure metro-wide with BikeWalk KC and the Kansas City B-cycle. But I also wrote a book A Black Urbanist (you can grab that over on the right) and sometimes I give speeches and help other communities tell their stories at design charrettes and public meetings. I’ve also written or appeared in all of the major “urbanist” publications, either as a subject or as a writer, as well as most of my hometown papers as subject or writer as well.