Revenue stream slows down Stagnating property and income taxes darken the budgetary outlook.

November 23, 1995

DESPITE A continuing good record in job growth, Howard County is experiencing a slowdown in tax revenue growth that could make the coming budget deliberations among the toughest ever.

According to the Department of Fiscal Services -- the state equivalent of the Congressional Budget Office -- the increase in third quarter income tax distribution compared to last year was a paltry 1 percent for the state and only 2.8 percent for Howard County. In April and May of this year, the county's projection called for an increase of 7.6 percent.

The apparent flattened trend line is alarming to Howard officials, who were hoping for an increase of at least 5.5 percent for the year overall. They are now projecting a much slower rate of income tax revenue growth.

Revenues from local property taxes are also not keeping pace with projections. In fiscal 1995, revenues from property taxes fell short of projections by about $2.2 million. And in the current year, overall revenues -- from property and income -- are expected to come in at least $1 million short of the expected amount needed to maintain existing services.

This revenue stagnation is taking place despite a healthy increase in the number of new jobs in the county. Officials attribute the revenue decline in part to the type of new jobs created, with a large measure of the growth coming in lower-paying, service-oriented employment.

County Executive Charles I. Ecker says he believes the county will experience at least a two-year slump. In early December, the state Bureau of Revenue Estimates will release its own projections, and those are expected to be equally dismal. If true, Howard should brace itself for some painful belt-tightening.

No slowing down for Vivian Reid

There are some people who should be held up as models of how to live well despite age or circumstance. Such a person is Vivian Reid, who directed Howard County's Office on Aging for nine years. She recently retired but has already mapped out an active life that rivals the busy schedule she kept while employed. At 70, Ms. Reid not only wants to take up travel, a dream of many retired people, she also wants to write a children's book, master her home computer and learn to fly an airplane. Wow.

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