At-Large Get Local

Dear Readers,
We have not been following the county and state election campaigns much. So, we can’t offer a primary election guide of our own. We refer you to the Takoma Voice print edition. The September issue has the results of a questionnaire put to the county council at-large candidates. The online edition has the results of a questionnaire put to school board candidates.
Takoma Park blogger Keith Berner regularly publishes an election guide.
As a service to city residents, we selectively quote the Voice’s at-large candidate questionnaire. We focus on the answers to one question of special interest to Takoma Park residents, the one that bites right through the skin to the bloody heart of the matter – the county’s THEFT of OUR MONEY!

Here’s the question: “The County Council this year reduced the amount of the police rebate to Takoma Park by $300,000, which suggests that the County is treating the rebate as if it was a grant. But isn’t the rebate actually a refund of taxes that the County collects for service that municipalities provide? In other words, isn’t it a bill that the County owes?”
So here’s what the candidates answered. Keep in mind, Dear Readers, that ALL of the incumbents voted in favor of withholding the city’s $300,000. So when an incumbent seems sympathetic and makes vague, open-ended statements about how the rebate system should be fairer, remember that actions speak louder than words.

Jane de Winter
My greatest strength as a candidate for the council is my skill as an economist. As I understand it, the Montgomery County Tax Duplication Program reimburses municipalities for those public services they provide that would otherwise be provided by the County. Payments are supposed to be based on the final audited costs incurred by the county during the two prior years and I doubt these costs decreased by the 15% that the county cut from the payment for FY11. In my opinion, the portion of the payment that is reimbursement for services provided is an obligation under the current law. So the answer is . . . yes
Marc Elrich (incumbent)
“I agree with the position of Takoma Park and other municipalities. This is not money from the General Revenue that is an additional payment to the municipalities, this is money that the municipalities paid to the County, due only to the tax structure, for services provided by the municipalities and it should go back to them. It’s not a “cost” to the County. it’s money we’re collecting for service that we don’t provide. I haven’t changed my mind from when I was a member of the Takoma park Council.”
Then why did he vote FOR the revenue cut?
Nancy Floreen (incumbent)
While unfortunate, cost cutting was required across the board as the County has experienced an unprecedented 21% drop in income tax revenue. It was a year of shared sacrifices in every single category of spending.
George Leventhal (incumbent)
I understand the county has an obligation to municipalities, just as the federal government has an obligation to the states and the states have an obligation to the counties. None of these responsibilities is being fairly or fully met. I hope the county will be able to provide a fairer reimbursement to municipalities in the future.
Raj Narayanan
This is a logical question. Being outside the government at this time, i cannot answer the rationale for this. The same type of inequities exist in other areas of county management as well. This is another example of piecemeal thinking. Indeed we should fix such problems.
Hans Riemer
That money does not belong to the County. It belongs to the residents of Takoma Park, and I don’t think the County can arbitrarily decide how much of the money it will refund to those residents. The amount of money due in a refund is the amount of money that has been paid by residents for services the county does not provide. The County has been dragging its feet on finalizing a fair agreement with municipalities to refund the money that the county owes to them and that should not continue, particularly through this budget crisis, where municipalities are also starved for resources. Municipalities need stronger advocates on the Council and I will be one.
I am proud to have been endorsed by Mayor Darrell Anderson (Washington Grove), Mayor Pete Fosselman (Kensington), Councilmembers Josh Wright (Takoma Park), John Britton (Rockville), Ryan Spiegel (Gaithersburg), Cathy Dryzgyla (Gaithersburg), and Mike Sesma (Gaithersburg).
Duchy Trachtenburg (incumbent)
A memorandum of understanding between the city and the county that requires the county to rebate not what Takoma Park spends, but what the county would spend if Takoma Park did not provide its own police force. Unfortunately, many municipalities had to share in the county’s sacrifice this year because of the economic downturn and the resulting loss of revenue. The 5 percent cut in aid to Takoma Park Police was slightly less than the cut to county agencies as a whole. It is true that Takoma Park provides many services that the county would otherwise have to provide. But it is also true that Takoma Park residents avail themselves of many services that the county provides, including a first-rate county public school system that this year required 55 percent of the budget. As the Chair of the Finance Committee, I advanced a compromise which was accepted by the full Council in budget passage, that decreased the actual cut to the municipal tax duplication funding.
We believe the “compromise” she refers to was the farce the county council performed as they “reconciled” (finalized) the budget. First they proposed municipal revenue cuts, then they threatened to double the cuts, then they “fought” for a “compromise” to halve that higher amount – back to the original one. Apparently, this was done just so they could make the above claim at election time.
Becky Wagner
The rebate/grant debate is one that has evolved over time is is only at issue now when resources are limited. The reality is that we have to determine what is fair, who is owed what, and fulfill our obligations as County government. That decision must come from better communication between municipalities and our County government. The Council and Executive need to do a better job at communication and be better partners with the municipalities.
Apparently she doesn’t know much about Takoma Park, where the county tax rebates have been a hot issue for a couple of decades, not just “now when resources are limited.”

– 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.

1 Comment on "At-Large Get Local"

  1. Tom Gagliardo | September 13, 2010 at 1:12 pm |

    1. Excellent public service (a) to ask the question and (b) to highlight the answers here. The print version was so dense, I skipped reading it.
    2. The M&C need to reprint this in the City Newsletter, with appropriate attribution.
    3. At beginning of the next county council budget hearing, a copy should be place on the desk of each member who responded favorably.
    4. The M&C need to send a copy of this with appropriate cover as an introduction to a meeting with all other MoCo municipalities.
    Good start. Let’s see this through.

Comments are closed.