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As Long as We Remember...

May 24, 2010

Campaign Diary Research and Then Some

Michael Kurtianyk

I had set a deadline of Memorial Day weekend to complete interviews of county staff and other leaders in the county as part of my research. I must say that everyone has been gracious with their time and their sharing of information.


I did emphasize that I had no agenda with these meetings. The purpose was simply to learn, and listen. It’s the same approach I am taking as I go door-to-door. It’s the old “We have two ears and one tongue” adage.


May 19 – Tax Equity


State law requires the county to repay a share of property tax revenue depending on the formula in use at the time. At this time, the payments are calculated thus: the Fiscal 2009 tax equity payment times the constant yield rate of 1.00117. This will be the formula for the next two years and is to be paid quarterly. Tax equity applies to those services duplicated by the county that municipalities provide separately, such as police services, parks, and planning and zoning, etc.


Today, Frederick City Mayor Randy McClement requested that the Board of County Commissioners pay its total share of its tax equity payment, which is $5.02 million for Fiscal 2011. The board proposed to reduce their share by $500,000, to reimburse the city for items to be funded that fall under city jurisdiction, or for in-kind contributions to the city.


What I found interesting is the way the commissioners attempted to negotiate the reduction. Essentially, because they allocated the following line items, they felt that they could contribute a lesser share of the tax equity payment: $232,329 in in-kind technology services; $114,000 for the Community Action Agency; $100,000 for Carroll Creek Linear Park; $47,620 for the airport; and $9,200 for Memorial Park. Mayor McClement rightly stated that the items being allocated should not be a factor into how much the county should pay as part of the tax equity.


Embedded in the notion of tax equity is the issue of fairness. Whenever there are services being duplicated, cost sharing must occur. The state leaders created the formula as outlined above, which expired in two years.


Let’s allow this to run its course, and then revisit. I bristle when state leaders create a formula for a single Maryland county. My notion is that what’s good for Maryland is good for all counties. However, the decision was made, and it will be discussed again in the future.


May 20 Funding for the Arts


The commissioners are scheduled to adopt their budget June 1, and have not raised the tax rate. I applaud their efforts. The county budget is lean, and programs have been cut. The Frederick Arts Council, for example, was reduced from $38,000 last year to zero this year. The Board of County Commissioners restored $20,000 today, in a 4-1 vote.


Commissioner John L. “Lennie” Thompson Jr., who proposed the cuts, was the lone dissenting vote. The reduction to the local arts community is barely – and I do mean barely – a drop in the bucket when looking at the total county budget. Reducing the allocation to the Frederick Arts Council by $38,000 barely helps next year’s projected deficit of $15 million. The next Board of County Commissioners will have to look at deep cuts and or bring in more revenue.


Quick takes:


…JPMorgan Chase will close the credit card center in Frederick. Six hundred employees will lose their jobs by the end of the year. This is a global company and has two facilities in the Philippines and one in India. It’s very sad to see them go. These job losses, without job increases, hurt our county.


…Banner Life Insurance will relocate 400 employees from their Rockville office to Urbana. I wish they had 600 employees, but alas, something is better than nothing.


…Thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Cpl. Kurt Shea, who died in Afghanistan May 10th while protecting our freedoms. He will be missed.


…Attended a Garden Party in Frederick City Friday night. A great time was had by all.


…Reports are that Tiger’s wife is seeking a minimum of $750 million in their divorce settlement. Does anyone locally have a connection to them? Maybe they can divert some of that money this way.


…Prom season is here. Anybody but me wore a three-piece, powder-blue suit with a ruffled shirt?


…Are Orioles fans talking about next season already?


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