Math skills lag at Patrick Henry (and the Loudoun BOS)

As alert reader Dan Johnson points out, Loudoun GOP Supervisor and Deep Thinker Suzanne Volpe’s mathematically challenged “example” of how terribly scary your property tax bill is going to be if we pay for our public schools was even more mathematically challenged than we noted in yesterday’s post.

As we noted, Volpe flagrantly cherry-picked her data, using one neighborhood that experienced an unusually large increase in assessed value (18.6% — versus the county-wide average of 4.19%) to paint an exaggerated and unrepresentative “example” of impending property tax increases.

But then she also applied a further, mathematically nonsensical multiplier to try to make the increase appear even greater. And,  in the process, demonstrating she doesn’t have the least clue abut how property taxes work — rather a significant failing in a county supervisor, one would think.

Here is what Supervisor Volpe  asserted: Noting that the “equalized” tax rate for next year comes in at $1.155 per $100 of assessed value, she stated: “Sugarland Run Townhouses saw an increase in their assessments of 18.6%.  This means that at the equalized tax rate of $1.15.5, the owners of townhouses in Sugarland Run will see an increase in their tax burden of approximately 22%.”

Right off the bat it is clearly a puzzle how she came up with that “approximately 22%.” The “equalized” tax rate is the rate at which average property tax payments remain unchanged. And as Volpe herself noted, because average assessments increased 4.19%, the equalized tax rate is reduced from last year’s rate so that the average bill remains a wash: Last year’s rate was 1.205; so the percentage drop in the equalized tax rate is 1.155/1.205=0.9585, or a 4.15% reduction.

So it is impossible on its face that a property owner who had an 18.6% increase in his assessment could see his equalized tax bill increase by more than 18.6%, since the rate is being cut by 4.15% at the same time.

So how did Volpe come up with this mysterious scary number of “approximately 22%”?

Apparently, she multiplied 18.6% by  . . . wait for it . . . the new tax rate itself, of 1.155 (18.6 x 1.155=21.4).

As a specimen of mathematical and logical absurdity, this is hard to beat.

First of all, when multiplying two percentages together, you have to express them as ratios, not as raw percentages.

But even more ridiculously, the new rate of 1.155 is the tax rate itself, not the change from last year. Since 1.155 is a reduction from last year’s rate of 1.205, the correct multiplier is 1.155/1.205; and multiplying that 4.15 decrease by an 18.6 increase (expressed correctly as 1.186), the answer comes out to be 1.1368 — in other words a net 13.68% increase  . . . not even “approximately” a 22% increase.

Well, she only exaggerated the true number for her already exaggerated “example” by more than half  . . .  about par for a Republican Loudoun supervisor.

Actually, of course, it is unfair to blame all of this on Volpe, as no doubt this bit of math wizardry was the product of her two staff aides, both graduates of Purcellville’s Patrick Henry Bible “College” for homeschooled Christians of a very particular fundamentalist right-wing stripe, not known for their mastery of modern science (or modern anything).

Another argument, if we needed one, to fully fund the public school budget and help stem the tide of scientific and mathematical illiteracy that right-wing “Christian” homeschooling is threatening society with.

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