Your taxes make good things happen.

Nobody likes dealing with their taxes. It seems that every time you look at your finances, more and more money is going to taxes. Sales tax, property tax, state and federal income taxes are the biggest culprits. The worst part? That money leaves and you never see it again. What does it ever do for you?

Believe it or not–a lot, and right in your hometown.

There are many people out there every day working to make your life better whose jobs are paid for, or at least made possible by, your tax dollars. They keep you safe, help you get around, and even work diligently for your children’s future. It’s extremely difficult to determine exactly how each of your tax dollars goes to any one job. The system is complex. But, that being said, here are seven jobs that your taxes help pay for that are making your life better each day.

1. Police

“If you think people are inherently good, you get rid of the police for 24 hours–see what happens.” – Sylvester Stallone

Police patrol your streets and highways, hoping to keep everyone safe. In some cities, it’s a tougher job than others, but make no mistake, they’re putting their lives on the line every day. From protecting your home to helping you out when your car stalls out at an intersection, police provide services that are crucial to your neighborhood. 

Tax dollars from local property and sales taxes help to pay those wages. Federal and state income tax dollars are used to help recruit and train officers and provide them with the equipment they need to do their job effectively.

2. Public School Teachers

“In a completely rational society, the best of us would be teachers and the rest of us would have to settle for something else.” – Lee Iacocca

Teachers spend hours with our nation’s children every day. They shape their learning from the beginning of reading lessons to complex trigonometry and physics. Yet, they make less than most other professionals and the pay increases lag behind the pack.

Public schools derive much of their funding from local tax dollars as well as federal programs that are created to help them continue to educate our youth without tuition costs to parents. Property taxes play a big role in keeping public schools afloat, but as much as 2% of the total federal tax budget is directed to education as well.

3. Firefighters

“One thing that's great about firefighters: If they don't have the equipment they desperately need, they don't have the help, they don't care. They'll do it on their own.” – Denis Leary

Is there anything more horrifying than the thought of your home going up in flames with your possessions, your memories, and your loved ones inside? When the unthinkable happens, firefighters jump into action. They put their own lives at risk to protect the things that mean the most to you. Each year, a number of these brave public servants lose their life as they try to save others.

It’s your tax dollars that help them do just that. From funding for equipment to salaries for professional firefighters, it’s a no-brainer that local, state, and federal tax dollars are well-spent on their services.

4. Public Library Workers

“For those without money, the road to that treasure house of the imagination begins at the public library.” – Pete Hamill

Underutilized, underappreciated, and underfunded. That’s the story of today’s public libraries. From great books to online resources and electronic media, public libraries offer a wealth of information and assistance to anyone that needs it. Librarians and all of the other staff at your local public library are largely paid by public funds gained through taxes and levies. If you haven’t checked out the library in a while, you may be surprised at how many great services they offer the public. Far from being a dinosaur, the public library has more to offer than ever before. If you don’t like the idea of your hard–earned money helping to pay for the people who keep it up and running, stop by and see for yourself just how many people benefit from a good public library.

5. Public Officials

“When the burdens of the presidency seem unusually heavy, I always remind myself it could be worse. I could be a mayor.” – Lyndon B. Johnson

From your local mayor to judges to your state congress, your tax money is used to pay their wages. The amount of money each one makes can vary greatly depending on where they are. Even the 50 state governors earn varying amounts, and it’s probably less than you’d expect. Like it or not, the people we elect to run our towns, states, and country deserve to be paid for their time and efforts and your tax dollars are the pool from which they draw.

6. Road Maintenance

“In New York, there are so many potholes, they're like craters on the moon. That's another traffic thing.” – Jimmy Fallon

You know that pothole in your neighborhood? You know the one. It’s the one that makes you spill coffee on yourself at least once a week as you swerve to avoid it. Quit swerving and do something about it. While the crews that work on streets may be private companies, the contracts they work on stem from local and state tax money. You have a right to call in and get that pothole fixed before they owe you a new blazer without coffee stains.

The same goes for sidewalks and bike trails. If you walk, run, bike, or drive on it, chances are your tax dollars are paying to maintain it.

7. Public Defense Attorneys

“Most criminal defendants do not get adequate representation because there are not enough public defenders to represent them. There is a lot that is wrong.” – John Grisham

You hear it all the time on those television cop shows. “If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.” You didn’t think these guardians of the unfortunate were working pro bono, did you? Public defenders get paid a salary that is comparable to other attorneys in the same area with similar experience, but instead of being paid directly by a client, they are paid using public funding. It can be an expensive, but important part of your tax dollars work.   

As you sign your income tax papers or add a few dollars for sales tax or wince at the number on your property tax bill, it may help to know that your money is not going into thin air. Most of these jobs are funded by a mixture of those three kinds of taxes and the funds and grants that come from them. If you want nice streets, dependable law enforcement and firefighters, and even a good public school for your kids, it’s your tax money that makes it possible. No one wants to pay more taxes than necessary, but to keep your community running the way you expect it to, your dollars have to go to work. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should feel guilty if you get a refund. Enjoy it!

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