GRANOLAPARK: Choo-choo tax

GRANOLAPARK • BY GILBERT

Dear Readers,

Reconciliation is so beautiful! It means the budget process is almost over.

It was a typical reconciliation process May 14. The city manager laid out the costs: Takoma Park’s current expenses and all the new ones that have been proposed. Most of the new ones were the councils bright ideas, but some were proposed by staff. The mayor took straw votes to determine what to cut and what to keep. As usual, when council members saw the price tags they nixed most of the proposed new costs. Also as usual the clever city manager found a way to fund some of them. Some of the highlights: Out are Sunday hours for the library and rec. department. Out is a street-scape engineer for Takoma Junction. In is a part-time assistant for the overwhelmed city clerk.

Getting personal

The city’s business community will be grumbling that the council raised the personal property tax rate. That’s the tax charged for store inventory, and its the only business tax the city can levy. Otherwise, city tax revenue comes from real-estate property tax. This is confusing, Dear Readers, so to clarify – just plain “property tax” is on homes and buildings. “PERSONAL property tax” is on store inventory.  Got it? Councilmember Seth Grimes would like to find a way to get a cut of income tax – which he says would be more fair. But that’s pie-in-the-sky stuff since the state determines where city revenue comes from and, as we know from experience, they are not about to change any laws for pipsqueak Takoma Park.

The personal property tax rate went up, but as some of the council kept pointing out – it’s back to the old rate after reducing it last year. This will not likely soothe  any business owners. Last year THEY kept pointing out that most other Maryland municipalities reduce their personal property taxes or waive them completely. Councilmember Seth Grimes is against the raise as he explains in his blog, but he is outnumbered.

The council is also raising the Railroad and Utility tax rate. Railroad tax? The city has a railroad tax? It has a railroad TO tax? Yes, Dear Readers! The state has a railroad and utility tax – something like the personal property tax, and the city gets a cut of that, depending on how many utility poles and railroad tracks we have. We have a lot of utility poles – which is why PEPCO is the city’s largest single tax source. The city DOES have tracks – for a mere1500 feet along on the western boundary.  It’s the stretch next to Takoma Avenue opposite the community college and Belle Ziegler (formerly Jequie) Park

Vote!

Ward 5 is special. Since councilmember Reuben Snipper is stepping down early, a Ward 5 special election will be held Tuesday, July 17, 2012. The polling place will NOT be the municipal building/community center. Cast your votes at Wilkinson Hall at the Washington Adventist University.

One candidate has filed a petition already and city clerk Jessie Carpenter says she “fully expects” at least 2 more to file. Melinda Ulloa is the one who filed a petition. Eric Hensal clearly intends to run, as his campaign website indicates. We understand a third candidate is Jarrett Smith, a landlord and chairperson of COLTA — Takoma Park’s Commission on Landlord and Tenant Affairs.

If you want to run for the seat, you must submit a petition with a minimum of  10 Ward 5 voter signatures at least 20 days before the election – on the form provided by the city clerk. Submission deadline is June 27. To qualify, you must be a registered voter, reside in Ward 5 through your term, and hold no other publicly-elected office.

– Gilbert

About the Author

Gilbert
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.

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