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DOCUMENTS


The Tentacle


August 18, 2014

Ramblings from an Inveterate Curmudgeonly Gadfly

John W. Ashbury

Over the years stark contrasts between candidates for local political offices have been few and far between. Listening to the “speeches” at various forums usually made it difficult to differentiate their positions. And one-on-one conversations simply emphasized their “likeness.”

 

Not this year!!!!!

 

If you remove the personalities from the race to become the county’s first executive under the charter adopted two years ago, the disparity is stark.

 

·       If you want lower taxes, then you vote for one candidate. If you don’t mind tax increases, vote for the other.

 

·       If you want to halt all growth in the county, vote for one candidate. If you want measured growth to keep up with demand, vote for the other.

 

·       If you want more county employees to do the same job that is being accomplished by those already on the payroll, vote for one candidate. If not, vote for the other.

 

·       If you want your candidate to actually do what he/she says will be done once elected, then vote for one candidate. If not, vote for the other.

 

·       If you want a candidate who voted to increase the budget 82% while in office, vote for that candidate. If you want a candidate who voted to increase the budget 17% while in office, then vote for the other.

 

See what I mean by stark contrasts.

 

* * * * * * * * *

 

There are citizens in this county who don’t seem to understand what tough decisions have to be made by elected and appointed officials, particularly when it comes to land use issues.

 

If someone – or group of someones – meets all the requirements imposed by the county to develop a parcel of land, and also meets all the requirement imposed by the state, then the governing body simply has two choices.

 

·       Approve the application to develop the land; or

 

·       Disapprove the application and face the likely loss of hundreds of millions of dollars through a judgment in court in favor of the developer.

 

Hardly seems to be a tough decision, does it?

 

* * * * * * * * *

 

Ever wonder why you can’t get a line-item budget from the Frederick County Board of Education. Well, here is one reason: Purposeful effort to deny the public its right to know where tax dollars are going – or at the very least, to confuse the issue.

 

Jack Dale, a previous superintendent of schools, began the practice of school-based budgeting. What this means is that each school will develop its own budget and submit it to the financial staff. So, if you want to know how much is being spent – say on fuel costs for the year, you have to add the estimated costs for each of the 60-or-so schools in the system, plus the costs for the administrative facilities.

 

Back in the day, the school system produced a line-item budget. But usually the public was presented only a “summary” budget. But if you were willing to pay for it, you could get an actual “line-item” budget.

 

Not anymore!!!!!

 

* * * * * * * * *

 

Looking over the cumulative budgets adopted while the two county executive candidates were in office, you will find that the average increase for one was 2.1 percent, while the other usually voted for budgets that averaged a 6.3 percent increase. And on one occasion that candidate voted against the budget because it wasn’t big enough, wanting more money for “pet” departments or for more salary upgrades.

 

* * * * * * * * *

 

There’s a funny thing about budgeting. Figures can be twisted to suit your own perspective. Eliminating the fire tax, which was calculated on the full assessed value of your property, and placing its cost into the general fund was unpopular with some. But when your assessment rises, the cost of the fire tax rose with it. Now that the cost of fire and rescue services is part of the general fund, the Homestead Property Tax laws kick into your tax bill. And that saves you money.

 

If you take all the little “extra categories” created outside the general fund from 2000 to 2010, and put them into the general fund, the budget for Fiscal Year 2011 and the budget for Fiscal year 2015 are almost identical: 2011 at $524 million plus; FY 2015 at a little over $525 million.

 

More musing and ramblings will come as the election approaches!

 

info@TheTentacle.com

 



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