Friday, May 23, 2008

A New Budget

WaPo calls the new budget adopted by the County Council on Thursday remarkable for what it does not do: The $855 million spending plan does not raise property or income tax rates as many counties have been forced to do amid a souring economy.

That doesn't mean taxes are not going up. Most people will see their real estate taxes rise because of higher assessments (Yup, even though home prices are falling, assessments are still climbing to catch up to years of appreciation during the housing bubble). And the council adopted higher fees for trash collection and water and service service and increased revenue enhancers like parking fines. All told, the 5.6 percent spending increase approved by Howard is greater than the 4.3 percent boost approved by next-door Montgomery.

We do get fancy new recycling carts and hybrid buses under the new spending plan.

There are those who argue it is important for governments to make investments in times of economic uncertainty, and others who stress the need for frugality.

The Council debated where to draw the line and ended up putting conditions on one of those investments: Plans to buy part of a proposed Oakland Mills office building, according to this story in the Sun.

The executive, who sees the proposed four-story mixed-use building as a key boost to revitalizing the village center, agreed not to sign a purchase contract until at least 45 percent of the building is sold or leased to long-term tenants. He also agreed that the county would not pay more for the space than any other buyer, and to overhaul county parking regulations - a contentious point for several council members.

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