Howard County Maryland Blog

Local Politics and Current Events

Fiscally Convservative Democrat? Part II

Posted by David Keelan on Tuesday, August 1, 2006

I am reminded of this letter to the editor from Delegate Gail Bates regarding the debate and defeat of the proposed tranfer tax that Courtney Watson (the fiscal conservative in question) supported.

We can fix school crowding within existing tax setup

The county recently increased the local income tax by 30 percent, and now the
state delegation is being urged to pass a state law allowing the county to
increase the transfer tax by 50 percent.

Since our county closing costs for purchasing real estate are among the highest in the nation, creating a real barrier to home ownership, giving authority to increase the transfer tax is a decision I do not take lightly. I have been reviewing all of the data very carefully and have a number of critical concerns.

My first concern is with respect to the “need” for a transfer tax increase to
fund an unprecedented jump in the fiscal year 2005 construction program, as
compared with what had been presented as projected needs for capital budget
planning in previous budgets.

In the County Council-approved FY2002 and FY2003 capital budgets, the school system’s projected need for FY2005 was under $50 million. However, in the FY2004 council-approved capital budget, the FY2005 projection nearly tripled to $123 million, $17 million more than was projected in the FY2003 budget for ’05, ’06, ’07 and ’08 combined, and coincident with the county executive’s request for the transfer tax increase.

In that same budget, the total projection for the ’05- ’08 years nearly doubled
to $240 million from the ’03 budget projections, causing me to question the
long-range planning for capital improvements and the requisite budgeting.

I am concerned about the necessity of increasing school construction funding by 185 percent in FY2005 (over FY2004 funding) while projected enrollment increases from ’04 to ’05 and in subsequent years are only 2 percent (900 students) per year, according to the demographer for the school system at a recent meeting.

There is overcrowding in specific schools. However, when evaluated from a
systemwide perspective, based on the Sept. 30, 2003 enrollment figures, our
elementary schools are at 105 percent, the middle schools are at 100 percent and the high schools are at 101 percent of the Howard County program capacity, arguably not grossly over capacity. Specific school crowding issues could be addressed by judicious use of redistricting while continuing to fund capacity needs and enhancements within the current revenue stream at a level consistent with previous budgets of $60 to $70 million each year as needed.

Del. Gail Bates

West Friendship

This is a very interesting letter.  School system capital needs increased drastically with the introduction of the tax increase bill.  It is alleged that when confronted with the differing numbers on the school system web site, the numbers on the website changed.  Fortunately members of the State Delegation printed those projections before they were changed and I am getting copies of both to post here.  Let me paste the relevant section of that letter here.

In the County Council-approved FY2002 and FY2003 capital budgets, the school system’s projected need for FY2005 was under $50 million. However, in the FY2004 council-approved capital budget, the FY2005 projection nearly tripled to $123 million, $17 million more than was projected in the FY2003 budget for ’05, ’06, ’07 and ’08 combined, and coincident with the county executive’s request for the transfer tax increase.

Please note that the tranfer tax increase that Ms. Watson and Mr. Robey lobbied so hard for (but didn’t get) was to bring in an additional $10M in revenue dedicated to school construction.  However, without any such increases the transfer tax reaps in more revenue today than they projected they would need.  In other words in 2005 the transfer tax brought in $14.7M in revenue, in 2006 it brought in $20M in revenue, and in 2007 it is projected to bring in over $50M.  Guess what, they both still got a $1-per-square-foot surcharge on new homes to help pay for school construction and complained it wasn’t enough.

Were they making up the numbers?  Was the BoE cohorting with Robey and cooking the books?  Do we even need the $1 surcharge on new homes? 

Is this what Courtney Watson means when she says:

Provide predictability to citizens with a stable tax policy that avoids wide swings in taxes from year to year.

For crying out loud – FISCAL CONSERVATIVE?

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3 Responses to “Fiscally Convservative Democrat? Part II”

  1. Bubba said

    Looks like “King Tax” Jim Robey and his friend “Queen Tax” Courtney have some explaining to do – well Jen/Molly cat got you tongue?

    Bubba

  2. Bubba said

    I’m totally stunned the tax and waste duo have no defenders? Where did the hydra like Jen/Molly combo go? Oh I get it they are drafting the 1000 word dissertation on why Howard Countys taxes are good and can’t get back to me right now? Sorry, but it sounds plausible….

    Tsk, Tsk, Tsk!
    BUBBA

  3. […] County Council Candidate and former School Board Chairman supported a very large Transfer Tax increase.  I think her comments summed up the HCEA’s position very well. Lack of funds could mean big school changes […]

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