No, The Tax Cap Won't Mean DoomsdayI am a lifelong...


December 13, 1992

No, The Tax Cap Won't Mean Doomsday

I am a lifelong resident of Anne Arundel County, and I would like to present another view of the tax cap than that presented in Elise Armacost's column (Nov. 15). Yours is the third or fourth doomsday article I have read since the election. Quite obviously, the majority of Anne Arundel County voters do not share your views.

Over the past two years, there have been numerous articles in The Sun and the Capital concerning the tax burden shared by residents of Maryland, and Anne Arundel County in particular. All have said the same thing. . . . I didn't save the articles, so I repeat from memory.

I live in one of the most heavily taxed counties in the seventh most heavily taxed state in the United States. As a counterpoint, recent newspaper articles quote studies saying that the quality of government services here is marginal at best. . . . Now, if I am paying more than most while getting less, do I have a problem? . . .

While you only hinted in your column, the Capital stated outright the other day that Anne Arundel County expected to lose $10 million and $15 million in each of the next two years due to the tax cap. Excuse me, did I miss something? These are projected revenues based on outlandish assessment calculations of real estate values. A figure of 10 percent per year is appropriate, but another newspaper article just stated that real estate prices in this county have actually fallen in 1992. This county will not lose real dollars nor even fail to grow. It will not grow as fast -- a big fact that no one seems willing to express.

I firmly believe that the Anne Arundel government is full of fluff. I can't otherwise explain why I am getting so much less bang for the buck. I believe the cap will force the county to do what IBM, GM, Chrysler, Westinghouse and other large corporations are doing: that is to start seriously looking for and fixing the sources of inefficiency which have become the hallmark of Anne Arundel County government.

I also believe that Robert Neall, our county executive, can and will begin to correct this problem if he gets the full support and cooperation of the County Council and the chiefs of the county agencies. The term limits enacted on the County Council aren't a message to be ignored.

At present rates, without the cap, we will rapidly approach being the most heavily taxed county in the nation, a shameful honor at best. The middle-income and senior residents will see the writing on the wall and move out of state, as I plan to do when I retire. Ask yourself who will be left behind? I can tell you. You can see it in Baltimore city. There will be a few rich living in Bolton Hill and Federal Hill and the rest will be poor renters who pay little or no taxes. Then, the city and Anne Arundel County will truly start to experience not capped growth, but real loss of real dollars.

Philip M. Link


But What Will It Mean?

Since the election, people have been asking me about the effects of the property tax cap. I wish I could assure everyone that the imposition of the property tax cap will have no effect on how we serve the residents of Anne Arundel County. I wish I could predict the exact impact of the tax cap and the amount of future state cuts. Unfortunately, I can't do either of these things.

Aware of its intent, our budget and law offices are working to interpret the meaning of the tax cap. Part of that work involves predicting the performance of other . . . income, including state funds. We're also studying how expenses will increase because of inflation, growing school enrollment, growing public safety and public works needs, and mandated regulatory activities. One thing is already clear, this cap will have a limiting effect that will grow each year.

To match expenses with revenues, we will accelerate my four-year plan begun in 1990 to reduce and restructure county government. Voters overwhelmingly favored the tax cap. There can be no question about their intent. Our citizens want smaller government -- now -- and, it is my job to respond to that demand. If precedent is any indicator, the tax is here to stay. In time, income taxes may have to be raised to ensure that the growing need for essential services is met. But for now, that is not a prudent course. Certainly, we will have to add to the Rainy Day fund....

We will hold public meetings this winter as part of the preparation for next year's budget. I invite you to attend and to play a role in determining where our limited resources should be spent and should not be spent. In the meantime, if you have questions or suggestions about county government's response to the tax cap, I hope you will write to me.

Robert R. Neall


0 The writer is Anne Arundel county executive.

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