Saturday, July 19, 2008

City Taking Steps To Affect Structural Budget

The original title of this post was to include the word "problem" at the end, but then I realized that there wouldn't be a problem if there was responsible leadership, and I didn't want to mislead my loyal public.

In any case, the city is taking a positive and proactive step to improve its financial situation. It has created a blue ribbon panel* to investigate certain aspects of the city's finances. The bill was sponsored by Alderman Israel, which means that it was well researched and/or based on viable theory. The rest of the city council is always eager to look as if they are part of such excellent research, and they ALWAYS request to be added as co-sponsors to Alderman Israel's legislation. In this particular case, comically, every other alderman plus the mayor are listed as co-sponsors to the bill.

(*I am so tickled by the phrase "blue ribbon panel". It reminds me of a prize pig a state fair. In 1998, I made a New Year's Resolution that one day I would commission a Blue Ribbon Panel to investigate the difference between a sun-roof and a moon-roof.)

The story goes like this. Annapolis is in a unique tax situation--it is home to many state buildings, many public housing projects, and many Naval Academy buildings--none of which are subject to property taxes. The state government (and I think the county government as well), instead pay PILOTs, which are Payments In Lieu Of Taxes. But, nobody has ever crunched numbers to see if the PILOTs offset the value of the lost property taxes, PLUS the value of the services that the city provides these to these locations, such as police, fire, water, sewer, and shoe-shining.

The unfairness of said situation is somewhat widely acknowledged, at least by city officials. The sidewalk tax was an attempt to circumvent this problem, with bills sent to every property owner in the city--even the ones exempt from property taxes.

(Post Intermission: Legislation in general is typically worded as follows. First, the word "whereas" is listed any number of times, followed by various, typically vague, assertions. Later, the phrase "Be It Resolved" is used, and is followed by what would change if this bill were to be adopted. In a perfect world, the 'be it resolved' changes would be at least partially justified by the 'whereas' facts. Example: Whereas dogs do not wear makeup, and whereas one of my friends misguidedly opened a dog cosmetic business, be it resolved that every dog must wear makeup in public so my friend won't go out of business.)

This bill basically says: whereas we don't get as much money as we should, be it resolved that several citizens determine how much money we should be getting, so come budget time we can ask for that much from the institutions that don't pay taxes. At least that's what I hope it's saying.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think you raise a very important question here, and apparently, you aren't the first person to raise it...