Letter to the Editor: Talbot County Tax Revenue & Tax Caps

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Beginning on March 18, 2018, with Councilman Price’s excellent Guess Comment Column detailing why Talbot County needs moderate growth in its tax revenue, I have read numerous comments published on the subject.

First, I think it should be said Councilman Price did a masterful job explaining the fiscal needs of the County and the challenges the Council faces funding those needs.

Second, I think many comments on Price’s March 18 column, some published in this paper (e.g. Mr. Desanctis, Mr. Howell ), some Talbot Spy comments, all recognize our County has legitimate fiscal needs. To me, the questions really boil down to two points. First, what is a “true need” vs. a “wish list”. Second, how do the citizens fund those “true needs.”

On the first point of “true needs”, in general such are driven by two components. The first should not be controversial, as we all understand and experience inflation, the costs we pay for things, every day. Hence, whether it’s the CPI-U or some other recognized index, such should be built into each approved budget without any cap or artificial ceiling.

The second, however, is another story altogether. In any political subdivision the demand for more and more government services will be never ending. Since demand for those services, and those mandated to the County by the State, are what generate much of the needs for County revenues, it’s obvious that those demands are a self- fulfilling prophesy for never ending tax increases. And that is where the rub comes in to play. What is a ‘need, or demand, for essential services’ by a liberal constituent will not be the same as that for a conservative constituent. And that will never change. So, as the debate on tax revenue and the tax cap moves forward, the Council must recognize, and in the proper context emphasize, that close examination and strong justification will continue for any requests coming from the demand side of the equation.

Why is that important? Simply put, because those paying the bills (the taxpayers) don’t want to see a blank check given to those spending our money. All of us living in this beautiful County have skin in the game. Liberal, Conservative, Republican, Democrat or Independent, we all have a stake. Our taxes pay the County’s bills, the Councils salaries, our votes elect the Council members. It is, indeed, right and proper to have legitimate, civil, informed debate on all issues. That said, when done, the Council’s budget must conform to the wishes of the majority.

Second, how do we citizens fund those “true needs?” In the feature article published March 25, 2018, on Councilman Callahan, I was much encouraged to hear him described as a listener and doer, and a calm voice of reason. Talking about the tax Callahan says “I’m not smart enough to know how to craft it, but I’m smart enough to understand that’s where we need to go.” And he adds “When (a citizen) reads it, it better be short, and you better know where the money is going period. Because the citizens are going to have to make the decision.” Well put Councilman Callahan!

Stated another way, we citizens need a plan easy to understand, identifying where our money is going to go, which also means the Council needs to understand the same thing. We don’t need a plan that is complicated, we don’t need a plan designed by the County attorney, we don’t need a plan designed by County staff. The plan should be designed, proposed and explained to us by the Councilman proposing it. Those are the people we elect.

Councilman Price is capable enough and dedicated enough to analyze the details of the County’s fiscal needs and design a plan to address them. Councilman Price is articulate enough to explain her analysis and plan to us in a straightforward, honest manner. And Councilman Price suggests a simple, finite, not open ended, solution to address our County’s tax revenue “true needs.”

I would support the concept of “The Price Penny Plan.” To get it on the ballot for all of us to vote upon, four of the Council members must approve and do so. If any of the other four Council members has an alternative plan, let them propose it and explain it in detail as Price did. Otherwise, let’s put “The Price Penny Plan” before the voters to decide. It’s a big step in the right direction.

Paul D. Denton
Easton

 

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