Fiscal Responsibility, Not Fiscal Insanity

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Fiscal Responsibility, Not Fiscal Insanity

Voters will face a key question on their ballots this fall that will determine whether County government can grow a modern economy and provide the infrastructure and services our residents and community deserve.

Currently, the County employs a confusing formula to set the annual property tax rate. The formula is based on prior year collections and broad economic factors beyond our control such as inflation that artificially limit the County from receiving the full benefits of improving economic growth and activity. In other words, growing the tax base with a thriving private-sector economy doesn’t generate the public-sector resources to maintain and improve services, creating recurring pressure to raise tax rates. By not receiving the full benefits of growing our local economy, we aren’t encouraged to focus on it, and as a result everyone loses – residents, businesses, and the County.

Rather than fix the problem, a petition organized by Robin Ficker doubles down on it by making the artificial cap permanent – turning a really bad fiscal policy into a potentially catastrophic one.

If passed, Mr. Ficker’s proposal would risk our financial solvency and our coveted AAA Bond Rating, which helps us build schools and fund much-needed transportation projects. It doesn’t promote a thriving economy, but actually discourages the very economic growth we need to invest in critical infrastructure and address school overcrowding in a fiscally responsible way.

That’s the wrong choice at the worst possible time, threatening our ability to adequately address this Covid-19 health emergency and the resulting economic crisis. The good news is, we have a better option to create a transparent and consistent tax policy that protects taxpayers and supports a thriving economy.

Question A is simple, as tax policy should be. Your property tax rate next year will remain the same as your tax rate this year, unless all nine County Councilmembers vote to increase it. No complicated formulas. No need for a Ph.D in economic theory to calculate it. A cap on the rate we pay, not on the total revenue the County can receive. Tax revenues would increase exactly how they should, when the tax base grows. The more our economy grows, the more the County will be able to invest in schools, transportation, and everyday services without raising tax rates. It’s clear. It’s fair. It directly aligns the County’s financial footing with the strength and success of our County’s businesses and residents.

I'm grateful that my colleagues on the Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee, Council President Sidney Katz and Councilmember Nancy Navarro, joined me to propose including Question A on the ballot, and greatly appreciate County Executive Elrich and all of my Council colleagues for their input and unanimous support. There will be much more to come between now and November on this crucial choice between fiscal responsibility and fiscal insanity. The fate of our County is on the line.