GRANOLAPARK: They don’t need no stinkin’ badges

GRANOLAPARK • BY GILBERT

Dear County Council,

You know that money you gave to Takoma Park? The tax duplication rebate of $650,000?

PLEASE, take it back!

Turns out most of our elected city councilmembers* – the same ones who rail against tax duplication and horrible county politicians (you guys) who are  KEEPING OUR MONEY – are KEEPING OUR MONEY!

It’s such a nice, cozy lump of cash they want to curl up with it and never let it go. Oh, well, maybe they will, but not now. Not yet. Maybe in January. Yeah, January.

Because, you know, stuff might happen, they say.  A Republican might win, the recession could get worst, the county/state/feds/robots/aliens might take away some other source of funds. And then we’d NEED that $650,000 real bad.

So, take the money back, county council! Hold onto it until we can elect a new city council. A council that can remember where that money comes from in the first place and will return it to the taxpayers. This city council, it seems, is just a pack of . . . politicians.

The local issue of tax duplication was good for playing to voter’s outrage by blaming high city taxes on the county. It was good for getting votes by pledging to deal once and for all with you evil county politicians.

But, now that they’ve done it, and you formerly -evil county counselors handed over the lucre, the city council got the worst case of Gold Fever since Humphrey Bogart in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. As the old prospector says “I know what gold does to men’s souls.” The city council don’t need no stinkin’ badges, either, all they had to do was vote on it.

We look forward to seeing you guys ride in like the federales on fork-lifts, bringing justice with you, and taking the cash back!

– Gilbert

*The notable exceptions being councilmembers Seth Grimes and Terry Seamens, who at the May 21 meeting adamantly argued for returning the money to the taxpayers via a tax rate reduction. The council majority voted to keep the un-reduced rate – and the money.

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.

2 Comments on "GRANOLAPARK: They don’t need no stinkin’ badges"

  1. Bruce Williams | May 22, 2012 at 6:08 pm |

    Gilbert
    A few points to make. We didn’t know for sure if we would get any money until last Thursday–4 days before final reading of the tax rate and budget. We had many long discussions during the months long budget process about the best way to balance various interests, and came to the conclusion that some decisions would be best left until January, when we would know more. Municipalities are due to meet with the County Council’s Government Operations Committee starting in July to try and resolve tax duplication issues.

    Remember that next budget year, the County Executive will propose his budget, and he didn’t include this money this year–he didn’t feel it was warranted. In fact, what he has stated on a number of occasions is that the County could change their law since it goes farther than what state law requires, and reduce our tax duplication payments by around $1.5 million. This would also cut out the $653,000 that the County Council gave us this year.

    We also want to see what assessments look like in January. What we don’t want to do is lower the rate this year, from 58 cents to 55 cents, only to have to raise it higher than 58 cents next year.

    5 of us felt that getting SOME of the tax duplication money owed us was a wonderful start in resolving this long-standing issue. We finally got the County Council’s attention on this, and the joint county/municipal task force report is finally ready to be released by the County Executive. We need to follow through on the remaining part of this complicated process. In the meantime, we have added the money to our reserves, and we can figure out what to do with it. We would all like to be in the position of returning it to the taxpayers–we don’t disagree with the goal. I for one have no intention of spending it this year, and if things don’t go all to @#$%@# in the coming months, but improve because of more permanent fixes to the tax duplication process, we should be in a position to lower the tax rate on a more permanent basis than a quick one shot deal this year. It will be more sustainable.

    I’ll make a quick analogy with fighting a war. We don’t want to win the first skirmish, then stop to celebrate and get overrun, and lose the war.

    Bruce Williams
    Mayor

    • Your Honor,

      Sorry, but we think it is the gold fever talking. When you have the fever you only see reasons to hold onto big piles of wealth. And, judging by the lengthy email Your Honor sent out last week outlining several reasons why the city should hold onto that money, the council’s got the fever bad. There may be shots for that.

      We never know from year to year what income the city will or won’t have. There are always surprises, some bad, some good. For example after the county and state chopped city revenues down to bare bones in 2010, the city feared the same thing in 2011. Instead, we got more money than anticipated.

      So, Your Gilbert takes dire predictions with a grain of salt and a twist of lemon, shaken, not stirred.

      What’s being overlooked here is how this looks and what precedent it sets. Getting the city’s double-taxed dollars back from the county has been an election cry for upteen years now. But, here’s this rebate handed over to us – on the very week the tax rate is set, and instead of returning it immediately to the taxpayers by cutting the tax rate, the city keeps the money. Because, bad things might happen. Because the tax duplication agreement with the county is not perfect yet.

      So, will voters continue to believe that tax-duplication is a real issue? or is the suspicion planted that even if the county rebates all our money, the taxpayers will never see it – because there’s always a reason to keep it?

      – Gilbert

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