Taxing moment in Columbia

Cap question: The Columbia Council prepares to put a ceiling on tax increases

March 06, 2001

WHEN the Columbia Council meets Thursday evening, three issues are likely to come up:

A cap on increases in the lien or tax rate, now 36.5 cents per $100,000 of valuation.

Legal fees of $300,000 accumulated by the council in recent months will be discussed.

And the council will debate whether to discuss the above issues in public.

The third of these matters demands an immediate answer: Yes. Certainly. How could such important busines be considered in private?

The current council, overriding the objections of some of its members, meets in private too often. Particularly in the matter of the lien, Columbia residents with an interest in their own finances will want to hear the cap discussion. If Columbia must consider asking its residents to pay more, they'll want to know why.

Some members of the council have suggested that a decision last year not to annex a new mixed-use development south of Columbia deprives the city of revenue it must now obtain by higher taxes.

The assertion almost suggests that lien payers of Columbia have to be punished for the council's decision (on a 5-5 vote) not to annex more lien-paying residents.

Surely that discussion will be of considerable interest. Few other issues would appear to demand more accountability from the council.

Similarly, some members have wanted a fuller and public accounting of the $300,000 in legal fees paid recently.

Thursday's meeting approaches then as a question: Will the lien payers of Columbia want to hear the council present its thoughts about expenses that may require higher taxes?

The meeting offers opportunities: The agenda gives voters a perfect opportunity to assess their representatives. The council can showcase its vision.

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