- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The outstanding men and women of the Charles County Sheriffís Office and the teachers and staff of the Charles County public school system are the finest anywhere. I am thankful for your contribution every day and you deserve the total support of our government.
So my abstention vote is not a vote against anything, not against law enforcement and not against education. I think that the workforce of these agencies should be paid adequately for their valuable service.
No, my vote is in response to the direct impact that our decision will have on the other side of the ledger. Not enough consideration for a mixture of cuts and the use of fund balance was offered as a solution to balance the fiscal 2013 operating budget. The result is a budget that will put in place one of the largest property tax rate increases in recent Charles County memory.
I am mindful of the struggle being faced every day by middle-class families, trying to make ends meet by cutting corners on the use of disposable income and that extra trip to avoid paying gasoline costs. They live on tight budgets and eliminate nonessential purchases because it would impact their ability to make their mortgage, rent payments or pay for utility costs.
Homeowners associations are struggling to balance budgets to pay for trash pickup and maintenance due to the number of homeowners in arrears or who have abandoned their homes. I have represented a significant number of Charles County residents the last five years who have gone through foreclosure proceedings. Experts expect that there will be a major upswing in foreclosures during the next year.
During the past week Iíve talked to hairdressers and barbers, small business owners, office assistants, real estate agents, clerks in department stores and workers commuting outside of Charles County for employment. Iíve talked to retirees, seniors and the parents of children in our public schools. I wanted to know if I am out of touch or if my concern for all of the citizens of our county is shared.
Many who are financially secure understand that rising taxes are one of the sacrifices that are necessary to receive top-notch government services. Many, however, are adamant that raising taxes is not a good thing during this very challenging financial period.
Throughout these budget discussions, it was my hope to capture the sentiments of the residents who donít send emails or text messages to make their case. I value all of the advice and recommendations I receive as I travel throughout the county. It is my job, therefore, to weigh that advice and make a decision based on what I believe is fair to the majority of our citizens during these difficult times.
Ben Bernanke, Federal Reserve chairman, predicted that economic growth is going to slow by the end of the year and will remain flat for at least two years. We will be putting our residents at great risk of higher taxes in subsequent years if our forecast for income and property tax revenue does not take shape.
After careful consideration of my vote, I factored in the multiplier effect that an increase to salaries would have on future operating budgets. With teacher pension cost shifting to local jurisdictions, we have to be very careful and judicious with matters like this because this type of decision carries generational and post-employment costs that will have to be accounted for during subsequent budget years.
My responsibility is to do what is best for the greater good. Significantly increasing as a revenue source property taxes in tough economic times amounts to questionable fiscal policy, particularly when we are basing the budget on projections for year-end personal income tax results.
I fault myself for two things. First, I should have done a better job articulating the need to approach this budget using the tools that are at our disposal other than increasing taxes. That includes cuts in spending and the use of at least a portion of our fund balance.
Second, my inability to make a difference in improving our commercial tax base severely limits revenue options. A robust commercial tax base would put us in a better position to absorb increases in expenditures. I am committed to making this budget work despite my concerns. I will continue to work diligently to find additional sources of revenue that will make it possible in the future to perhaps reduce the tax rate.
Reuben B. Collins II, Waldorf
The writer is the Charles County commissionersí vice president.