When all is said and done, the most important issue facing the voters of Baltimore County tomorrow is a buried among 20 ballot questions. Question T -- the tax cap -- has been portrayed by supporters as a simple matter of tax relief for hard-pressed homeowners. The reality is far more complex. Under the provisions of this question, the county would limited to a two percent annual increase in property tax revenue from residential, business and commerical properties. Taking into account the obvious revenue reduction plus the county's built-in inflationary costs (fuel, salary increases, health insurance and Social Security for county employees), the cap would create a budget shortfall of at least $30-$35 million; programs and services would have to be cut drastically.
Sadly, those who would suffer most would be the very families the referendum portends to protect, those who can't afford private school if the teacher-pupil ratio in public schools hits 1-to-40; those for whom private snow removal and trash pickup would be a costly burden. The homeowners whose property assessments have increased most, would benefit most from the tax cap and almost certainly suffer least.
The inequity in this legislation is rivaled only by the hypocrisy inherent on the ballot tomorrow. Questions A-J ask residents to approve bond issues for everything from school and library repairs to affordable housing, a new fire complex, parks, playgrounds and more. We support all of these worthy initiatives. But it is a logical impossibility to vote for both Question T and the bond issues; there simply won't be enough revenue to finance the borrowing. The juxtaposition of Question T and the bond issues makes clear that what's being peddled here is the Reagan-era illusion that taxpayers can have everything they want -- without paying for it. We urge a reasoned vote tomorrow -- against Question T.