Ticked Talk

Dear Readers,
Will you be ticked off when your taxes go up? Will you be dismayed when the library is closed or when the city recreation department staff is laid off? Will you be annoyed when bored, boisterous youth roam the streets because there are no more after-school city programs? Will you be frightened when the police department is shut down?
Where will you take your anger, dismay, annoyance, and fear? To the city council? Too late! Wrong people!
The time to express yourself is NOW. The people are COUNTY councilmembers.

The county council is the source of this potential (but likely) disaster. They are snatching back a big chunk of the city’s tax rebate. But, it’s not too late to stop them – not yet.
The county chief executive wants to keep $600,000 of our rebate. The county council has the option May 20 to reduce that to $300,000. They also have the option to reduce that to $0, but few think they will go that far.
In addition there are county tax raises, new taxes, and the 5% cut the county executive made a few months ago. All told, says Mayor Williams, the city could lose $800,000. The results could mean a raise in taxes, or the closure of a city department, or layoffs, or program and service reductions – or all or a combination of these.
Give a Holler
Want to yell at somebody about it? The county council e-mail addresses follow. You can also use the council’s call-in line at 240-777-7802 where you can leave comments about anything relating to the budget.
Here is the situation in a nutshell from which you can take your “talking points.”
The county pays tax rebates to municipalities. The rebate money is the portion that would have paid for county services such as police and public works. Since the city provides those services instead, the money goes to the city.
This year (fiscal year 2010) the county’s rebate to all municipalities is $7,500,000. Takoma Park gets $3,000,000. Of that, $2,500,000 is our police rebate, which none of the other municipalities get.
The county council has already cut 5% of next year’s rebate (assuming it would have been the same amount as this year’s). Recently, county executive Ike Leggett has proposed an additional 20% cut to all municipalities. The county council approved it. This would mean Takoma Park would not get $600,000 of its resident’s tax money.
When the county council “reconciles” the budget Thursday May 20, it is possible they might restore that 20% cut, or they may restore 10% – half of it. This would mean $300,000 would be cut from Takoma Park’s rebate.
If any of the cuts are made, they are unfair to Takoma Park, says Mayor Bruce Williams. The full cut would slash the city police budget 25%. The county police budget has been cut only 3.9%.
The mayor says that to be fair, the county council should split the rebate amount so that the Takoma Park police rebate is in line with what the County is cutting their police – 3.9%. Then, take the remainder and divide it among the municipalities.
Resident Seth Grimes sent a letter to use as a model

Dear County County Members,
I oppose any proposal to further reduce Montgomery County’s tax rebate to the City of Takoma Park for FY2011 – $607,000 had been proposed – on top of the 5% reduction already introduced. Please vote against this reduction, which is unfair and out of keeping with the understanding and expectation that the county will rebate tax receipts for services delivered by the city and not the county. The county’s rebate already falls far short of fully covering the cost of those services, the cost the county would pay to deliver them in Takoma Park. Further, the cut is out of proportion to the cut the county plans to make in its own service delivery, of police funding in particular.
Please vote against the proposed reduction in the Montgomery County rebate to the City of Takoma Park.
Send your letter to Council Chair Nancy Floreen
Your letter will be automatically cc:ed to the other councilmembers. or you can write directly to them:
Valerie Ervin
Marc Elrich
George Leventhal
Duchy Trachtenberg
Nancy Navarro
Roger Berliner
Mike Knapp
Phil Andrews
The county website has budget information. It appears to consist of a bunch of pdfs you have to download. Be warned that he county assumes all of its residents are on a high bandwidth internet connection, have up-to-date browsers, and use a PC.

– 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.

7 Comments on "Ticked Talk"

  1. William Bell | May 18, 2010 at 4:49 pm |

    Of course, this problem could not arise if Takoma Park didn’t layer a municipal government on top of the county government. Is the additional expense of that added layer justified by public benefits that we wouldn’t have if governed directly by the county? I have my doubts. (Ego gratification for local officials is *not* a public benefit.)
    Has there ever been a serious attempt to perform the cost-benefit anyalysis? If so, who did it, and where were the findings published?

  2. When I moved to Takoma Park in 1979, there was backyard trash pickup. That’s right, the trashmen would come right into your backyard, pickup your trash cans and carry them to the truck. You never had to carry the trash down to the street. It made being in an incorporated city worth the cost; the County never did and never would provide that! And it really was the only worthwhile service provided by the City.
    Somewhere around 1985, the City abolished back yard pickup, as a cost cutting measure. So for the past 25 years or so, there really hasn’t been any reason for an incorporated city.
    (I’m not suggesting dis-incorporation. I’m suggesting reinstating back yard pickup!)

  3. There may be a cost-benefit study. You could ask your councilmember or city staff.
    We have heard comparisons that indicate residents usually get a higher level of service – for instance that the reaction time of city police is faster than county police, that city streets get better and faster snow plowing than county streets, that the public works schedule for street repair is on a faster rotation than the county – something like a 5 year cycle compared to 10 year cycle.
    There’s also the oft-repeated statement that if city folded its library, the county system would not replace it, meaning that residents would have to drive to the nearest county library.
    Many feel that municipal government is more responsive than county government.

  4. Gilbert, while entitled to his opinions, should be careful not to repeat the self-serving old saws that are nothing but unproven propaganda from City Hall. If I have been impressed in the past by the reaction time of TPPD (although I have had no comparison with MCPD), I find the rest of the claims laughable and generally unsupported. In more that 22 yrs, after major snow storms I found the streets in my neighborhood in much worse condition than streets outside the city limits: If that was not the case in this year’s storm, good but one isolated event does not make a trend! As for the regularly repeated alleged faster rotation of street repair in TP compared to MontCo a laughable claim without any support: the fact that the respective periodicities always vary so much (TP street repair rotation has been at different times indicated at 5, 10, and even 15 yrs) with TP’s being ALWAYs half of that of MontCo is telling in that regard: pure unwarranted local braggadocio! One thing that I know for sure is that in my more than 2 decades in TP, my street was never redone once (until last year when WSSC did the work) despite regular winter water main breaks and Maple Avenue was only resurfaced once (with help from WSSC). So much for the 5 year cycle (unless the cycle referred to is the one when PW comes to fill pot holes!).

  5. We didn’t state opinion, we reported what we’ve heard stated by councilmembers, department directors, staff and residents at public city council meetings. Readers can decide for themselves whether such statements have more or less credibility than claims from one disgruntled resident that these are “self-serving old saws.”
    – Gilbert

  6. “Councilmembers, department directors, staff” AND Residents (afterthought?)? Granted that it was not a scientific sample but it seems a little biased toward City Hall with all the self-interest that it may reflect.
    If I sound disgruntled, I have my good reasons and it is clear even from some of the comments to your posts that I may not be just “one”. But, then, let me say that your unwavering enthusiasm for almost all things official in TP feels a little “cultish”.

  7. here’s another “disgruntled” resident/taxpayer who’s tired of writing a check each month for these people to “play city” with – TP unite! you have nothing to lose except your chains!

Comments are closed.