Dear Readers,

Dan Robinson ran into a wall of ice at the May 27 Takoma Park City Council meeting. Shusshshusshshussh, his fellow councilmembers and the city manager cranked up the frost-making machine the moment he brought up his proposal to reduce the city property tax rate.

He asked the city manager which would be the better approach to cutting back the budget – make an across-the-board reduction or identify specific programs to cut or eliminate? Shusshshusshshussh. Councilmember Clay said that when this question had come up in the past, the answer was that after employee positions, which the council are loath to cut, the next items on the chopping block are the council’s own priority projects. Best, she said, to go with the city manager’s carefully calibrated budget proposal. Shusshshusshshussh.

* * * *
When Ward Three representative Robinson persisted, the other first-term councilmember Josh Wright snapped that it was one thing to propose a reduction, but if he wanted budget cuts Robinson should show exactly where he would make them. Shusshshusshshussh.

Robinson proposed a two cent reduction in the tax rate. That’s two cents per $100 of a home’s value. The city manager’s proposed rate is 61¢ per $100, Robinson’s proposed rate was 59¢.

A two cent reduction would mean that the owner of a $300,000 house would save about sixty bucks. The owner of a home worth $600,000 would save around $100. If you were the fortunate owner of a $600,000 house, Dear Reader, we wonder what you would do with your windfall $100? Get your Prius detailed, perhaps?

Of course, the half-cent reduction the council settled on (with Robinson the lone dissenting vote) won’t buy you a tank of gas.

Councilmember Seamens proposed saving money by ditching the million-and-a-half dollar council-chambers renovation that would convert the chambers into a performance space. Seamens has long disliked this costly plan. If he were a bit more of a performer, himself, he might do an impression of Gabby Hayes,”We don’t need none ‘a them there gussied-up, fancy gewgaws! This ain’t no dude ranch!”

He might also have done a “Curses! Foiled again!” impersonation of Snively Whiplish when other members of the council pointed out that the project was funded by grants, so postponing it would not save any city tax money.

The budget is up for a first reading at the June 2 meeting, a “first reading” being a sort of practice vote, airing of views, and last chance for revisions before the second (final) reading (vote). The second reading is scheduled for June 9.

The budget discussion has largely consisted of department heads being interviewed by the council. These are similar to citizen committee interviews, a number of which have been held at the same meetings, and you know what a waste of time Your Gilbert thinks thinks THOSE are! In both cases the interviewee tells the council how much they want to serve the city, and the council tells the interviewee how much they appreciate their committee/department. This, of course, takes hours and hours of Your Gilbert’s life, precious minutes down the drain! Ah, but we are happy to sacrifice them for you, Dear Reader.

– Gilbert

PS. More on the Takoma Park Navy, which Your Gilbert reported on in a recent post. There is indeed a navy, or at least a boat, abandoned on the city streets a year and a half ago, that sits in the Public Works employee parking lot. The city claims it has been awaiting paperwork to dispose of the vessel, but Your Gilbert suspects this is just the first of a mighty fleet the council is assembling..

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.

2 Comments on "Frostbite"

  1. Tom Gagliardo | May 29, 2008 at 1:06 pm |

    I would like to see a graph setting forth the property taxes paid (city, county, state and storm water management) per $100,000 of assessed value for the last 10 or more years. This would help inform us about whether we are getting value for taxes paid. Two other points: (1) I am always taken aback (aback, Gilbert, way back) that rec programs for noncity residents cost hardly more than what is charged to city residents — seems those that don’t pay taxes for rec programs should shoulder more of the cost; and (2) grants come from some guldurn guvmint I’m paying taxes to. So gussing up the council chambers in the $15-million-or-more-recently-renovated SAM ABBOTT (where’s the signage)Citizens’ Community Center ain’t free.
    Want to cut the budget? Here are some ideas: (1) cut the number of city vehicles and lengthen the replacement cycle. Seems like an awful lot of new vehicles sit around in the parking lot. Re-evaluate whether providing detective and other nonpatrol police functions are cost-effective. Reevaluate the county double tax rebate and/or lobby for a law which fully reimburses us for county services paid for, but not provided (see, e.g., police services above). And do we need an accredited department (replay the tape and listen to the City Manager’s comments last week. If we do, do we need a position solely dedicated to this function? Didn’t used to. Wait, I’m still thinking. Do we still have a full time police department spokesperson/assistant to the chief?
    P.S. Did you hear the one about the people who bought an affordable house, but had to sell because the taxes were overwhelming?

  2. Fine a post. Basic problem is G. modify ones own thoughts too frequently.

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