GRANOLAPARK: Tax Dupes

GRANOLAPARK • BY GILBERT

Dear Readers,

What’s “tax duplication,” you ask?

If you live in Takoma Park, you suffer from it – YOU are a tax dupe. You pay taxes to both county and city. You pay the county at about the same rate as county residents elsewhere. Those folks get county police, library, and trash pick-up. YOU get city police, library, and trash pick-up. You pay the city for those and other services. So, why are you paying the county for services you don’t get?

And why isn’t the county handing that money for services you don’t get back to you? Why take it in the first place?

This is a vast simplification. The county does rebate for some things, but not the amount Takoma Park calculates it should get.

Still, the point is that if the county took taxes for only the service it provides, you taxes would be lower. If the county handed that money to the city, your city taxes would be lower. Or so the city council claims.

Big threat

This came up at the Takoma Park council meeting Sept. 19 because the county council commissioned a study on tax duplication. The study got a lot of things wrong according to the city council and staff. That’s because, they grumbled, the county’s own Office of Legislative Oversight told the county council what it wanted to hear.

The big threat to the city is that the study endorses a proposed 60% reduction of revenues Takoma Park and other municipalities get under current (already inequitable) formulas.

ludlow

Suzanne Ludlow, Deputy City Manager, appeals to council members to appeal to voters.

Deputy city manager Suzanne Ludlow was ready to sound the air-raid sirens, calling up citizens to lobby their council council representatives. Three of them, George Leventhal, Marc Elrich and Hans Riemer live in Takoma Park, for Pete’s sake. What did we elect them for if not this issue? Valerie Ervin lives only a few blocks from the border, but when she made her first campaign stop in the city back in 2006 she drew a blank when asked about tax duplication.

That’s 3, maybe 4 votes out of 9. Ludlow said it was time to activate citizens to call their council representatives. Pressure from voters could be key, she said.

Sadistic bully

The county council’s ears were probably burning as the city council speculated on the county’s motivations. It seems the county council has deep psychological issues. Or maybe it’s just a sadistic bully.

Whatever the motivation, it isn’t rational, they all agreed. As council members Seth Grimes and Fred Schultz mentioned, the amount the city is asking fore is less than half of one percent of the county budget.

As Mayor Bruce Williams said, “For them it’s pocket fluff, for us it’s huge.”

According to city staff, the good news in the OLO study is that it points out advantages to the county when it gives funds to municipalities for services also provided by counties.

On another track leading to the same station, groups representing Maryland cities and counties are talking about tax duplication. Maryland Municipal League (MML) is initiating discussions with the Maryland Association of Counties (MACo) This may lead to state legislation in 2014, according Mayor Williams, and he should know because he’s on the MML board.

Kay Daniels-Cohen running

Saying “Ward 3 Rocks,” Takoma Park councilmember Kay Daniels-Cohn announced she will run for re-election this fall.

She had hip replacement surgery last February and continuing cancer treatments since then – yet she missed only one council meeting. She “attended” several meetings last winter by phone. She has been unstoppable force of optimism, cheerfulness, and determination in the face of her life-theatening condition.

“I know this may come as a surprise but I have been cleared by my Doctor to run for re-election and have decided to do so,” she said in a Sept. 16 email to Ward 3 community email lists.

DSC_0359

Kay Daniels-Cohen decked out for the city’s 2013 July 4th parade.

Surprising indeed, since her treatments continue with only the hope of stalling the inevitable, but when Daniels-Cohen chooses to be unstoppable, the inevitable better step out of the way.

“I want to continue to serve Ward 3 and the City of Takoma Park in a positive and creative manner.  There is a huge difference between the Council side of the dais and the other side.  I have experienced both and it is quite humbling and in the next two years I want to complete what I have started.  I thank you for all of you good thoughts during these months and I am asking for your continued support,” said the announcement.

Lobby news

Speaking of state legislation, the council met with the city’s lobbyist Sept. 16.

Yes, the city has a lobbyist. The lobbyist watches for proposed state legislation that might effect the city. The lobbyist can talk up legislation that benefits the city.

A brief rundown of just a few issues before the legislature in Annapolis that might effect Takoma Park:

• Speed cameras, some want to curtail, others ban.

• New Hampshire Ave. development – if the rabid, er . . . rapid bus lane project gets funded and approved, it screws up the city’s plans.

• Polystyrene ban and pesticide ban – of strong interest in the city.

• Cable tv revenues – the city gets a lot of cash for this, but it can only be spent on cable tv, which is something of a dinosaur. The law made sense in pre-internet days when public access to media was

• Marijuana legalization – Seth Grimes brought it up as something the city could support “not too actively.” Seth is SO not the “Reefer Man.” But, he seems in favor of making possession of 10 grams or less a “traffic-type citation.”

 – Gilbert

 

Twitter feed:
Follow @Granolapark

Like us on Facebook:
Granolapark

The Voice