Something Untoward

Dear Readers,

When the city manager gets crossed, she doesn’t get mad, she gets diplomatic.

With a perfectly straight face city manager Barbara Matthews assured the public observing the April 22nd City Council meeting she was “not meaning to suggest there was something untoward about this,” as she described how the county council waited until 6:00 pm last Friday evening to announce the 9:00 am Monday committee meeting that would recommend next year’s municipal tax rebate.

The rebate is the amount cities such as Takoma Park are due from the county for providing city services such as policing, recreation, refuse and recycling collection, and so forth, that “duplicate” the county’s.

“I think it is just a matter of workload,” said the generous Ms Matthews, that kept the county from posting the meeting time until after most municipal workers had gone home. Friday also just “happened” to be the day when many city managers were at a conference, she observed, as though it were merely unfortunate coincidence.

The hero of the day is city staff member Suzanne Ludlow, Community and Government Liaison, who caught the late announcement in time. Thanks to her Takoma Park was represented at the Management and Fiscal Policy (MFP) Committee meeting. Only two other municipalities were represented, Rockville and Gaithersburg. Apparently they also have alert staff.

The villains of the day are two of the three MFP committee members, county councilmembers Marilyn Praisner and Roger Berliner , who outvoted MFP Committee Chair Duchy Trachtenberg.

Praisner and Berliner voted to stick to last year’s rebate formula, overriding County Executive Ike Leggett’s 2008 budget proposal that would have kept the dollar amount the same. The effect is to reduce the amount rebated to all the municipalities by $700,000, about $270,000 of which would have gone to Takoma Park.

As the Mayor grimly explained, the MFP said that OUR money would be better spent on county council “priorities.” What it boils down to, she said, is that the county feels it is their money to “give” to the city. Or not.

Ironically, the $270,000 is roughly equivalent to the 2 cent property tax rate cut in her proposed budget. IF the county council votes to approve the MFP Committee’s recommended rebate, the city will either have to drop the tax cut or cut expenditures, which would have a “fairly dramatic effect” on the city, said Matthews.

So, contact your county councilmembers, Dear Readers!

– Gilbert.

About the Author

Gilbert is the pseudonym of a hard-bitten, hard-drinking, long-time Takoma Park resident who maintains the granolapark blog. Gilbert and William L. Brown — Granola Park's mild-mannered chief of staff, researcher, and drink pourer — have never been seen in the same place at the same time.