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Our taxes can be controlled without sacrificing services

September 05, 2006|by JOHN WELLER

There are many questions that voters will be asking prior to the Sept. 12 election. As a Democratic candidate for County Commissioner, I have heard a lot of those questions.

Most not only affect us today, but will have an impact on our children in the years ahead. I do not profess to know all the answers, but with 43 years of experience in county government, I will put in the time and effort to find the best solutions. I promise to listen to all concerns.

What can we do about assessments and taxes? Our assessments are controlled by the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxations, a state agency. Therefore, the County Commissioners have no direct control. We can work with the local state delegation and hopefully have the methods of determining assessments revised and possibly even institute a cap on how much your assessment can go up per year.

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Why did the current County Commissioners wait a whole year and not lower the assessment cap? Why did the delegation have to force the county into lowering the cap? Why didn't the commissioners make it effective for FY 2007 instead of FY 2008?

Our taxes can be controlled locally. What we can do is monitor the assessment cap (homestead credit) which would permit lower taxes, lower the tax rate, and/or set our tax rate based on the constant yield. But we must be careful to maintain sufficient funds to provide the necessary services to you.

What about the influx of development? Our infrastructure is, shall I say, being tested. Yes, we need development, but it must be controlled. One would surmise that with all the new development, our taxes would have decreased, but that didn't happen. Why not?

Most of the concern has been with the impact on schools, and rightfully so. But let's not forget that even if you have a new school, your child must ride existing roads to get to that new school. We must do a better job of upgrading our existing road system.

Determining not when, but if, your road gets improved should not be done by computer. How long will you have to wait? Most county roads were not designed for the amount of traffic they now carry.

What about proposed roads? Planning is almost nonexistent. We cannot wait until development arrives and then decide, "Uh-oh, we need to build a new road." (Good example, Robinwood Drive.)

Our water, sewer and even our landfill are being stressed. Yes, we can build new sewer lines, pumping stations and even treatment plants. But how do you produce more water? Our public water supply is only going to get worse with all of the towns and communities using the Potomac River.

How can we forget the landfill? The 40 West landfill opened in 2000 with an initial cost of approximately $15 million. It was projected to have a life span of 80 years, but has been downgraded to 39 years. In addition, at this time we should be using Cell No. 2, but we are presently constructing Cell No. 4.

The 40 West landfill was to be used for residential/commercial refuse only - not construction material. So why close down the rubble landfill? We should re-open it now, because it has approximately 25 years of use left. By doing that, we can reduce by 25 percent to 30 percent the amount of material taken to 40 West, adding another 15 to 20 years to its useful life.

What about education? We must work closely with the BOE to ensure our teachers are provided with the necessary resources for our classrooms. I did not say, "Raise taxes/give them more money." We can achieve this by seeing that more money from Commonwealth Avenue gets into the classrooms.

Why should teachers use their own money to buy supplies for the class and even buy materials to fix up a classroom that needs repair? Why should your children bring home a list of supplies that you as parents have to provide? Isn't this why you pay your taxes?

The recent fiasco over awarding design contracts to consultants for new projects, as reported in The Herald-Mail on Jan. 3, resulted in an increase to the taxpayers of just over $1.3 million. There could have been many books/supplies put into every classroom countywide had this money been used wisely.

There are other issues that we will be facing and I hope that you will consider me to be one of your next County Commissioners. I will be glad to discuss with you any of the above or any issue you deem important. My home phone number is 301-739-2319. Together we can make Washington County a better place for all. Thank you for your consideration.

John E. Weller is a Democratic candidate for Washington County Commissioner.

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