Calling the proposal to cap property taxes "sheer foolishness," an opposition group is waging a counterattack by urging voters to just say no.
Representatives of Fairness for All County Taxpayers argued their case before a dozen Pasadena residents Thursday night. They said that limiting property taxes would cripple county capabilities ranging from road maintenance to hiring more teachers to handling the school enrollment upswing.
"The word has to be passed that it's foolishness," said Ingvard "Ed" Bach, owner of a Pasadena dry-cleaning business, who strongly objects to capping the tax rate. "It's sheer foolishness to cut the fund balance at a time where we're sliding into a recession."
Bach was joined by Jack Wisthoff, a math professor at Anne Arundel Community College and former Board of Education member who helped form FACT in July.
They appealed to the handful of residents at the Greater Pasadena Council meeting to vote against the referendum in the November general election. They intend to pitch their message to other neighborhoods in the next month to forestall a move they contend would cost the county at least $8 million a year.
Maryland's highest court cleared the way last week for a question on the ballot asking county voters whether they would support capping taxes at 4.5 percent or the rate of inflation, depending on which is lower.
Wisthoff pointed out that Prince George's County was strapped severely when voters backed capping their taxes in 1978. By trimming the county budget, 800 teaching positions were lost and services were stalled, Wisthoff said.
He also argued that Anne Arundel County would revert to seeking a higher piggyback income tax to compensate for the budget shortfall.
Both FACT representatives said they believe voters will turn down the referendum. But James J. Riley, a Republican running for the state House, disagreed. The candidate, who spent a few minutes stumping at the meeting, said he believes the referendum will "pass overwhelmingly."
Faced with a stagnant economy and the specter of a tax cap, Riley said strong measures were required to avoid slashing services. He called for trimming "all fat in the budget," reviewing government spending to find cuts and tapping private industry as "alternative funding sources."
His promise to end excessive government spending won the support of at least one resident in the audience.
Donald Anderson, a longtime Pasadena resident, said he believes many politicians waste too much money, and added that he's part of a growing group of homeowners "fed up" with the bureaucracy. "I think there's a lot of people in this county who are up to their gills with this 'gimme more, more, more,' " he said. "It's a cavernous maw sucking up all our money."