The Wicomico Council Budget Hearing

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A caving on Bennett Middle School?

According to published reports in both the blogosphere and mainstream media, Wicomico County Council is holding yet another meeting tomorrow morning to discuss the stalled Bennett Middle School project. County Executive Rick Pollitt has already asked County Council to allot a 7 cent per $100 increase in the property tax to help pay for the new school without presenting the remainder of his operating budget. (The phrase for that where I come from is “a pig in a poke.”)

First of all, it’s notable that the meeting will be a daytime meeting rather than an evening meeting, since I thought the intention of having night meetings would be to encourage participation. Perhaps that time worked better within the schedule of the few squeaky wheels who don’t understand that people are tapped out, so no means no. For working folks, it’s not that easy.

And since it will be a legislative session, this will give at least one of the four who originally voted to hold off on the school until funds are more available the opportunity to cave in to the caterwauling of these parents who are more than willing to pay higher taxes. News flash: there is nothing stopping those in Parents in Action from stroking a check to make up the difference in their tax rates; however, the rest of us may want to see a better funding plan for a more affordable school that won’t put those same children who attend the school into decades of watching the county pay for it.

G.A. Harrison opines in his piece that District 2 Council member Stevie Prettyman is the weakest link among the four, and that over the last week there has been a “sometimes mudslinging” campaign against the four who voted to be fiscally prudent – another I spoke to agreed that the County Council is getting “hate mail.” Perhaps supporters of fiscal sanity were a little too complacent.

Of course, there is the slim chance that we are the recipient of some fiscal miracle and the county can afford this project without saddling the next generation in debt or, more importantly, raising taxes on a population which is already overburdened. Harrison suffers from one possible inaccuracy in his report, though – I believe a seven cent rise in the property tax homeowners would result in a staggering 17.5 cent per $100 increase in the personal property tax Wicomico County businesses are saddled with. Certainly local businesses can weather that increase, no problem.

Failing that miracle, it bears noting that a County Council which bends whichever way the wind blows is also subject to a primary challenge next time around. I can guarantee you local Democrats will give no credit for voting to raise taxes in the next election and will instead use the 2014 campaign to paint County Council as the obstructionists who rode Rick Pollitt out of a job.

Read more here.