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August 11, 2010

Old Timers, Quit Complaining!

Tom McLaughlin

While following the unfolding of the contentious Frederick Board of County Commissioners debates, issues seem to center around taxes, jobs and development.


They cannot be considered as three separate entities as all three are related.


The tax issue seems to come from some old curmudgeons who raise their canes, spew the false teeth and have yet learned to adjust their hearing aids so they can listen. The major reason for the tax protest comes from two interrelated life changing events that occur at about the same time.


Retirement usually means a marked decrease in income with retirees relying on savings, social security income and pensions. As idle time begins to accumulate and the moneys don’t stretch as far as planned, these individuals begin a campaign to find ways to make their income stretch.


Another event that occurs around retirement age is the end of 30-year mortgage and the complete ownership of a home. Before, taxes were hidden in the monthly mortgage payments and few of us paid any attention to the amount as it was spread out over a 12 month period.


However, the two events, a marked decrease in income and the real estate taxes suddenly collide. The retiree must now come up with, in my case on my Onyx Court house in Middletown, (yes I am a retiree) about $3,000 in cash every summer, just in time for the fall elections. I am guessing the amounts were not figured into the after-work budgets because it will be the first time most have had to deal with them on a lump sum basis that were previously hidden in monthly payments. And they come back every year.


There is a natural human cry to try and change ones negative circumstances. Therefore, cutting taxes so the individual will have more income is the only avenue left open. One is helpless to adjust the pension or the savings but can make a voice heard about the amount of taxes paid.


In order to cut taxes, government must fire people. These are their only resources unless they want to sell property such as Winchester Hall. But, which people?


The retiree, of course, wants those people who least affect him to be let go. Education seems to be the prime target for many as their children have grown and probably moved away. This, of course, raises a human outcry from the parents who don’t see 60 children to one teacher as an alternative educational strategy.


The next perceived way is to raise additional tax revenue. The only way tax revenue can be increased is more people; and more people mean more housing developments. Twisted into this equation is the idea of more people mean more jobs.


However, according to statistics and comments made on Facebook, there is already a glut of houses on the market. Many homes are in default; bank sales are prevalent; and prices are continuing to decline. The good real estate agents, who make up only 10% of those involved in the industry, are continuing to make money, even in these times of so called recession/depression.


The other 90 percent want new housing developments because new houses are easier to sell. A new development usually means a shift of population within the county from one part to the other and not an influx of new people. A new development means a new school while the older ones become under utilized. Hence more taxes.


The migration of new people to the area has slowed because stimulus money’s have been spread out over the nation and not concentrated in the Washington Metro area as it once was.


Development does spur an increase in jobs, but only in the construction trade – and only for the short term. It does not provide for long-term employment or a stable tax base which will allow taxes to be reduced.


Therefore, retirees should work together for the betterment of Frederick County, which will increase the quality of life for everybody. An increased quality of life means more people will trickle in to fill the houses already on the market, increasing the tax base, utilizing existing government facilities and possibly, just possibly lowering taxes.


[While Mr. McLaughlin lives and writes from Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia, he keeps up with events in Frederick County via the Internet and emails from friends.]


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