One thing County Executive Robert R. Neall has learned from four recent meetings with citizens: contrary to rumor, the property tax movement still lives.
The series of meetings, which concluded Thursday at Southern High School in Harwood, made it clear that people are just as disgruntled about the amount of property tax they're paying as they were a year ago, before a tax cap referendum failed at the polls.
This is what Neall heard Thursday night:
"The taxpayers are being crushed," said former county commissioner and Annapolis alderman Robert H. Campbell. "They cannot stand more taxes."
"An overwhelming amount of people in this county believe their taxes are getting out of hand. To raise taxes to keep people working is not consistent with what's happening in private industry," said John Taylor of Shady Side.
Neall's tight-fisted economic policies "are a refreshing sight to behold after eight years of tax-and-spend," noted South County'sFloyd Ford, who complained that his taxes have been rising at a rateof 22 percent a year.
Neall said discontent over property taxes has been the common theme during the series of meetings. "There's still an awful lot of worry about the tax burden," he said.
Unfortunately, the state and county economic picture is not getting any rosier,Neall said. Anne Arundel's projected budget deficit, now estimated at $10 million, could rise to $15 million if the state eliminates grants along with other local funding.
The state is scheduled to announce funding cuts for local governments this week.
Anti-tax residents told the executive they support cutting the cost of government. "We must not submit to every special interest group that asks for money, no matter how worthy the request must be," Campbell said.
Others, however, expressed concern about the possible loss of basic services during the recession. Times may be hard, but Anne Arundel still needs money for the arts, pools, ball fields, computers in public schools, battered-spouses programs, affordable housing and public transportation, they said.
Eileen Thaden of Shady Side said she wouldn't mind paying more in taxes if she felt she was getting something for hermoney. "I feel there's nothing in South County," she said. "I don't see what I am getting for that massive increase in our taxes."
Theinformation from the four community meetings will be used in preparing next year's budget, Neall said. The budget planning process beginsnext month.