During last fall’s campaign for County Executive the Democrat in the race, Rick Pollitt, expressed his opposition to the voter-approved revenue cap and promised to do a second budget that had placed in it all of the items that could have been funded had the voters not been so unwise as to enact a revenue cap (unwise being my description for the purpose of this post, not his.)
Well, today he was on Bill Reddish’s AM Salisbury radio show and he remarked that the difference in the budget amounted to about $4 million. So, being at work, I wrote an e-mail note to myself, that said, self:
Rick Pollitt will do a budget “addendum” detailing where he’d spend the “extra” $4 million that removing the revenue cap would entail. What about the extra $4 million in people’s pockets?
So I ask, what about it? According to a 2005 Census Bureau estimate, there are just over 90,000 residents in Wicomico County. One way to look at the impact of the revenue cap is to show its impact on the typical “family of four”. In that respect, a family of four has an extra $177 in its pocket because of the revenue cap. That amount may be an extra week’s worth of groceries or could pay the electric bill for a month – while it may not seem like much, it’s not chump change either.
Or there’s another way to look at it. My house is assessed (as of July 1st this year) for tax purposes at $94,730. (Hey, it’s public information, so why be bashful about it?) According to the Daily Times article today about the budget, property owners get a 6.1 cent per $100 assessed valuation break in their local property taxes due to the cap. (The rate becomes 88.1 cents per $100 of assessed value.) For me, that decrease works out to $57.79 in my pocket. For others who may have a little bit nicer home (let’s use Tony Tank for an example) it means a little bit more – one house I saw would net just over $300.
What Pollitt seems to forget is a basic rule of taxation – lower tax rates tend to create more revenue because the money circulates more. I may well spend my $58 supporting the local music scene come Friday and buying ribs Saturday (tomorrow’s post) so my spending supports those employees and businesses, who are taxed to some extent but take their gain and spread it about the local economy taking care of their needs and desires.
And it’s not like the budget actually went up by 2% – in fact it’s increasing by about 4.4% because of increased revenue generated by property assessments and additional income taxes. Had Pollitt gotten his wish list that included the additional $4 million, the budget would have shot up 7.5%.
Much as the state’s budget, the County Council can only subtract items, not add them. It’s going to be intriguing to see what comes out once some of the more fiscally conservative on County Council grab hold of it and have their say. Not surprisingly, according to the DT story, “(o)f the more than 50 Wicomico departments and several nonprofit groups requesting funds, 37 asked for more money, six asked for the same amount and seven departments requested fewer funds. Pollitt’s recommendation increases dollars in 39 of these departments and programs, with six earning less and five receiving the same amount.” So Pollitt actually overshot a little bit on this budget go-round, probably assuming that County Council would trim a little here and there.
Finally, since I know Rick Pollitt has read my blog from time to time, let me ask this question of him directly. I seem to recall at the Pittsville forum you stated that when you did budgets you started everyone out with zero and in essence made all of those departments in Fruitland earn whatever they got in the next year’s budget. With all of these hands out, did you indeed start at zero with them?
So you don’t have to check back the whole length of my link, this is from my October 13, 2006 post “Pittsville forum – a review“:
In fact, Pollitt claimed that each year he started the Fruitland city budget from scratch and built it as a whole (rather than the federal style of baseline budgeting.) Pollitt advocated a “climate of thrift and economy” with incentives for department heads to save money.
I realize that for you this is county budget number one, but you’ve been at this almost six months (since I’m figuring this process would have began once you were elected) and it should be apparent which county departments are running lean and which are living off the fat of the land.
So that’s my two cents, which by my count adds nil to the budget but plenty to the discussion. I’m curious to see if I get a reply.