Whose money is it anyway?
Blaine Young, the Frederick County Board of Commissioner’s president, announced a proposal in mid-March that would have the taxpayers of Frederick receiving a $100 tax rebate as a result of a budget surplus.
Many interested parties have since complained that the tax rebate proposal is a political gimmick and a giveaway to the citizens of Frederick County to the detriment of many charitable organizations that once were the beneficiaries of county-directed taxpayer funds.
The surplus that was calculated to be an estimated $27 million in December of 2011 was the result of higher than expected revenues, budget cuts to discretionary spending and fiscal restraint imposed by the current commissioners.
According to The Frederick News-Post, approximately 86,000 households that pay property taxes in excess of $100 will receive a rebate with the roughly 4,000 that pay less than $100 entitled to receive a tax credit. According to this scenario $9 million dollars will be given back to the taxpayers to do with as they see fit.
According to Commissioner David Gray, there will be processing costs of over $20,000 to get the taxpayers their rebate checks. Many agree with Commissioner Gray that the cost of returning the money to the taxpayers isn’t worth the time, effort, or cost.
Other opponents of this plan to rebate the $100 claim that many of the non-profit agencies which saw tremendous reductions in county-directed funding will be hurt by the move. Many agencies will receive no funding and the remaining agencies will see their funds dry up in the future.
In The Frederick News-Post’s comment sections following articles on this matter and on its Forums, one is sure to find other skeptical reasons for the rebate. Those would include the use of the rebate as an overt form of political graft – even though this is a return of taxpayer monies to – of all things – the taxpayer.
What critics fail to recognize is the fact that these commissioners have made good on their campaign promise to become an agent for the taxpayer. They promised to become a fiscally responsible board and to bring the budget of Frederick County into the black. They have done so by removing from the county government the responsibilities that didn’t belong to the county or shifted those responsibilities to entities that could maximize the taxpayer dollar.
There should always be concern over the use of taxpayer funds. In regards to costs associated with the refund process that Commissioner Gray has mentioned, it must be remembered that this is a part of doing business. The county handles administrative duties on a daily basis and an additional envelope, check and mailing should not produce an unbearable burden to the hard working staff at Winchester Hall.
Others who have come out against the loss of funding for the non-profits in Frederick County have a parochial view of charity. They believe that government knows best how to spend our tax dollars.
However, we should not put government employees in the position of choosing who wins and who loses. Charities, just like any other entity, should vie for the dollar of the willing donor. Historically Frederick County has set aside monies to non-profits that fulfill a vital role in assisting the needy of our communities and have done so by choosing which charities are worth our taxpayer money.
As it stands, the taxpayer currently has no say in how their tax dollars are spent when it comes to Frederick County directed-charitable giving. With the reduction in the county’s role in non-profit expenditures, the taxpayer will now have more of a say.
As a result of the rebate several non-profit groups are looking to the taxpayer and their $100 rebate for a potential windfall in donations. I am certain that the people of Fredrick County which consistently contribute generously to their favorite charities, their congregations and other civic organizations will continue to do so and that this rebate may just be a way for them to give even more.
What the critics of this rebate fail to mention, or attempt to minimize, is the fact that this is taxpayer money not that of the county government.
Many of us may donate to our favorite charity; many may use the $100 to pay for a special activity for our children; many may choose to go downtown and use the rebate to pay for an evening out. It doesn’t matter.
It’s our choice to make. It is our money.