County Executive Rushern Baker finished the Boston Marathon in 5:54:54. Quite an accomplishment. What he’s racing towards now is raising our taxes and I am not in agreement. The big ticket increases that have been in the press are Baker’s proposed 15% increase to property taxes, and a 50% increase to our already too high telecommunications taxes. The property tax increase comes with a promise from Kevin Maxwell and Baker that in 5 years, county schools will be so good that they will draw the best and brightest AND be ranked in Maryland’s top 10 school systems. All sounds promising but I, you, we cannot pay for another thing. Where is the money that casinos are supposed to put into the Education Trust Fund? How is that money being used? Some media sources report that money from casinos that is put into the Education Trust Fund isn’t easily traced.
I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss the way County Executive Rushern Baker is going about increasing taxes. This really bothers me because I like the County Exec.; I don’t see him as the slimy guy Jack Johnson was/is. There is a longstanding law passed in Prince George’s County called Tax Reform Initiative by Marylanders or TRIM. This law was passed in 1978 and caps the property-tax rate under 1% of a home’s assessed value. The TRIM law has been challenged before. In 1996, when tax revenue was WAY up in PGCo, an effort to do away with the TRIM law was launched by way of referendum, but soundly defeated. The tax increase proposal from County Executive Baker circumvents that law by applying a 2012 law that requires “maintenance of effort” in education spending by local governments.
Senator Anthony Muse has proposed legislation that would leave the property tax cap in place. The PG Sentinel reported on the Muse bill, “the County’s property tax rate [can] be set higher than the rate authorized under the County’s charter,” so long as the additional revenues is used to fund the Board of Education’s proposed budget. Muse’s bill would close the loophole because, he said, legislators implemented the original law with the purpose of helping school system’s fund their per-pupil spending.
It is high time that we make some cuts, invest in the “gateway” neighborhoods, as my blogger brother Bradley Heard calls them, and force the people who are in position to do their jobs. That is not limited to school administrators, teachers, county employees, and board members. That means parents too. I’ve heard horror stories about how some of these kids cut up at school. Where are the repercussions? Where are the boundaries? You know there would have been hell to pay if we cut up in school. But I digress. There is fat to be cut. Why does our county need a Personnel Board (FY2015 $322k) and an Office of Human Resources Management (FY 2015 $5.224 million)? I understand that the Personnel Board deals with grievances and the Office of Human Resources Management handles staffing, HR policy, etc., but seriously, these two offices seem to have overlapping duties. The OHRM also has a hand in personnel grievances so why is there a Personnel Board again? This is just one example. See the budget and overview for the Personnel Board HERE and the OHRM here.
Brother blogger Bradley Heard has a great blog called the Prince George’s Urbanist. He has covered every reason why transit oriented development is the key to the economic uplifting of this county. I’ve been to meetings held by the Prince George’s County Planning Commission (great group), and I really think they get it, but the rest of the county officials seem to be living in la-la land as it pertains to fully utilizing the great, walkable, transit-based neighborhoods that border DC/PGCo. It’s so backwards that our poorest areas with the lowest median home values would actually be the opposite in any other county. Check out Bradley’s series on his blog HERE.
The increase to our already high mobile phone bills is covered HERE by mywireless.org. Great post on how we are already overcharged and the proposed increases would make us the second highest tax bearer in the country behind Chicago. It’s all too much. Spending in Prince George’s County has got to be smarter than this. This county is taxing us to death. STOP IT.