Having lived in Maryland near Washington DC for over 40 years, I am accustomed to seeing DC license plates with the “Taxation Without Representation” slogan. Reading the article in your Nov. 14 edition regarding the plans of the Mayor and City Council to use the Homestead exemption to block future property tax increase of residents, I feel like copying the license plates of my neighbors in DC.
I have no objection to the stated goal of the Homestead exemption — to prevent someone from losing their residence due to large future increases in property taxes. However, this exemption has not means testing. So to protect the widow on a fixed income from losing their home, it also grants huge tax waivers to folks in multimillion dollar homes with six or even seven figure incomes. Further, folks who receive the tax cuts year after year are able to sell their properties without an obligation to repay a cent of the tax benefits they received over the years.
As much as I object to paying double the property tax as a resident with an identical property, that is not the most serious problem with capping resident property taxes. Regardless of which political party they represent, politicians come to the table with a list of pet projects. What keeps things from getting out of hand in other jurisdictions is the potential wrath of the voters. We saw a very recent example of this in the race for governor. The perception is that the current governor went on a spending spree over the past eight years turning a surplus into a deficit and dramatically increasing taxes. The result was the election of a Republican governor in a strongly Democratic state.
In a situation where the voters have been granted immunity from any property tax increase resulting from increased property values, there is no concern about a potential backlash from voters if the spending gets out of hand. Why vote down a huge spending measure when the only people who will be taxed to pay for it cannot vote in the next election? Sounds like an ideal situation at first glance. However, the concept becomes self-defeating.
Eventually, the true property tax on properties reaches the point where it has a severe adverse impact on real estate sales and property values. Sure, the existing property owners are shielded. However, anyone who is planning on moving to Ocean City or someone looking to buy a second home will both find that the tax burden is so great that the move becomes unattractive.
For the past several years, I have seen local politicians complain about how the folks in Annapolis refuse to give Worcester County its fair share of support. I wonder how many of those politicians from other jurisdictions own property in Ocean City and are thinking about how they are getting ripped off by Ocean City and Worcester County politicians when they are considering additional funds for Worcester County/Ocean City?
The Downtown Association of Ocean City would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to all of those who helped make our Wicomico Street Winter Festival on November 8 such a success. Thank you to our wonderful sponsors, The Dough Roller, Trimper’s Rides and OCDC. Thanks to Dolle’s Candyland for allowing us to take over their parking lot, to the The Pour House, Bearded Clam, Cork Bark, The Casino, Ocean Downs, Funcade and Ripley’s Believe It or Not for their support, and to the Steven Decatur Show Choir and the band Tranzfusion for entertaining the crowd and adding a festive mood to the day. Also, to The Dispatch for its help in publicizing the event.
This day was very successful due, in large part, to the efforts and generosity of our awesome volunteers and to those who came out for the festival. Santa even took time out of his busy schedule to pay us a visit. The purpose of the event was to raise funds to bring the holiday spirit and lights back to downtown Ocean City and much needed business to the downtown area in the off season. We can only do this with the continued support of our community and businesses.
Thank you again.
Mary Ann Manganello
(The writer is the administrator for the Ocean City Downtown Association.)
Petitioners. Take A Bow
Last night in an emergency ordinance the Ocean City Council passed 1% (one percent) of the tax relief that the popular tax petition calls for. In what they estimated would bring resident tax payers $80,000 of relief, the city took a baby step toward addressing the real problems. For this, we are grateful.
For the first time the council admitted that residents need tax relief. However, all citizens should know that the relief is inadequate to change the destructive environment recent councils have created. Instead of about $18 per family of homestead relief totaling $80,000, the petition calls for $8,000,000 of general relief by tax reductions across the board in an effort to turn around declining property values and flight from Ocean City. Of equal, if not greater, importance, the citizens want to see the government cut wasteful expenses to reach the $8 million in relief.
For the relief to be effective, it must be two orders of magnitude higher, or $8 million, and must be offset by cuts in wasteful spending. People want the government to cut back and the relief to be adequate to make a difference in their lives. Unfortunately, the $80,000 offered by the council only benefited voters, or about 3% of the property owners, leaving out the vast majority of taxpayers who equally need relief if we are to return to the robust economic vibrancy many of us remember and achieve our goal of higher property values. This is simply political pandering to a minority.
Those that signed the tax petition are beginning to influence public servants. Sometimes it takes a cattle prod to get elected officials to do the right thing. In order to get the relief the city is crying out for, we citizens will have to stay the course. But take a moment, be proud of yourself for a job well done and hold the line for more to come.
I was told by someone in the know that the majority of the council views us as their customers. We are not their customers. We are citizens and they are there to serve us. Mr. Thomas Jefferson on July 2, 1776 changed the Declaration of Independence to read “citizens” from “subjects”. It is still true.
Shore Dealt A Blow
In the quake of Delegate Conway’s election loss, Lower Eastern Shore citizens have lost their strongest advocate and Maryland will lose its last rural House committee chair. His staff has summarized a short list of his work. Even the short list extends to several pages and does not do justice to his efforts to keep down Lower Shore taxes, to prevent college tuition increases, or repeated attempts to restore highway user funds. It is not possible to quickly assess what the loss will mean to the State, rural communities, and our area. From House Appropriations leadership positions, which include the chairmanship for the past 11 years, he helped make the Lower Shore a better place.
The list focuses only on several hundred million dollars he was able to direct to Lower Shore projects in recent years which could be quickly documented. He has frequently expressed, “I never did anything alone,” but even people with a limited knowledge of the budget committee process should know that as chairman he wielded considerable influence within the spending limits set by Maryland governors. It was an accepted fact in Annapolis that Chairman Conway would work to assure his constituents got a fair share every year. It wasn’t easy, even for him. There was immense competition for any money designated for Maryland legislative projects, especially during the recession. Funding often came from hard fought battles he championed. For more than two decades capital projects he supported generated jobs in local communities and brought a lasting economic impact.
Other legislators on the Shore and elsewhere often took credit for his work and he never publically corrected any of them. Many who voted against the budget and funding for legislative initiatives vainly laid claim in the media to projects Chairman Conway had worked diligently to create.
Whenever supporters implored Chairman Conway to list his accomplishments, he simply refused, believing the people he served valued his work. During campaigns he didn’t brag, run negative ads, or engage in spin. As a budget committee chair, every project of fiscal impact in the State crossed his desk for approval bringing jobs, educational improvements and a higher standard of living. Dozens of community organizations received funding. He is and has been a model of humility, character, and courage while championing school construction and programs, improved teacher benefits, agriculture, public safety, and advocating for the disabled, elderly and poor.
A Shore loss.
(The writer is an assistant to Conway.)
Home Care Month
I know for many, November is a time to give thanks for the gifts and people we have in our lives. I am writing to share with you why this month has even more meaning to me and the Peninsula Home Care team.
November is also Home Care Month. A time to celebrate, honor and say thank you to the people committed to caring for our loved ones when they need it most. Our team of nurses and therapists work diligently to provide the best plan of care for every patient they serve. And the best part – they get to do it in the home, where the patient is most comfortable. They spend hours driving across the peninsula to visit and treat homebound patients to help them recover from illness or injury and gain back their strength and independence.
Patient care comes first at Peninsula Home Care. We want every patient to heal and find a quality of life that brings good health and happiness. I want to thank our team for their drive, dedication and the tender loving care they give to each and every patient they touch. Happy Home Care Month all.
(The writer is the Salisbury/Ocean Pines branch director for Peninsula Home Care.)