Town Board Proposes Tax Rate of .4734 per $100 While Mulling Over Ways to Control Expenses

Elkton Town Workshop, May 12, 2010 — The Mayor and Commissioners gave the nod to approving a tax rate of .4734 per $100 for the upcoming fiscal year, which is at the constant yield.  The current rate, which is about a penny lower, is .464 per $100.  This is an unusual year because the drop in property assessments created a higher constant yield, a number that is designed to produce the same amount of revenue for a jurisdiction, according to the Steven Repole, Elkton’s financial officer.

When the mayor tried to take a straw vote to see if the board was okay with the proposed levy long slow minutes of silence ticked by as he asked the elected officials several times if they would support the new buget.  Commissioner Mary Jo Joblanski, busy concentrating deeply on the spreadsheets, said “I’m still looking at the numbers.”  “Do we have to vote on it now?” Commissioner Piner queried.  After being told that the town needed to make its budgets available for public inspection Friday, he spoke about going with the old rate, which was a penny lower.  As the discussion stopped, quiet filling the room, the mayor asked again for an answer while an audience of nearly a dozen people anxiously waited for a decision.

Punctuating one of those pauses the finance officer reminded them that although the new assessment value was a penny higher they were still receiving the same amount of property revenue.  “We’re already short as it is” Mayor Fisona added.  “Although it went up a penny, we’re taking in the same amount as last year.  If we don’t we’re going to loose money,” the mayor continued.

Town expenditures exceeded proposed revenue by nearly $1,300,000 for the upcoming budget and that was based on the additional penny in the levy.  To cover the gap, the town is dipping into its reserves as it did last year.  If Elkton were to take in less money, it would have to rework the budget and look at cuts.  “What do you think Charlie,”  the mayor asked in trying to urge a decision.  Commissioner Givens shot back, “Well what do you think mayor.”  Finally, after a few more moments lapsed and another request for a decision was put on the table, the seemingly reluctant commissioners gave the nod to go ahead with the rate of 0.4734 per $100. 

Focusing on Efficiencies & Cost Savings

With that decision, one directly affecting taxpayers and voters, freshly on their minds, the subject of expense control came up.  Commissioner Givens had been pouring over the budget highlights so he asked about the justification of an additional position in human resources.  “We had one, we had two, now we want three,” Commissioner Piner added as he joined that discussion.  Several times this evening Commissioner Piner noted that the town needs to start finding efficiencies rather than looking to the taxpayers when costs go up. 

When the potential of additional expenses to the town for waste collection came up, Commissioner Piner remarked, “We need to look at what we’re doing before we start going to the taxpayers.”  He kept going back to that subject as he and Commissioner Givens inquired about some additional outlays for the town.

It is unusual to have anyone attending workshops since historically the subjects under consideration aren’t advertisied and the public isn’t allowed to comment.  As we reported earlier the town for the first time in recent years advertised it’s agenda this evening, but remarks from the audience weren’t allowed.


21 responses to “Town Board Proposes Tax Rate of .4734 per $100 While Mulling Over Ways to Control Expenses

  1. Why is it that politicians seem to have such a HARD time finding ways to cut spending,…wait–I know–because its always rather easier to just pass the bill to us!!

  2. Let’s see. They add a penny to the tax rate. That’s a tax increase. When the assessments were going up 25% Joe Fisona didn’t cut the rate so so I would have the same amount of money did he. No he was to busy spending the money to cut back when times were good. Now he wants a penny more. Guess that’s why he wasn’t at the teapart with Chris and others.

  3. There might have been a dozen people in the audience but they still are not allowed to speak and they are very difficult to hear.

  4. They are maintaining the constant yield. Mayor Fisona actually lowered the real property tax rate in each of the past two fiscal years prior and there had not been an increase in the adopted tax rate since 2003.

    In Fiscal Year 2003 the rate was .444, in FY 2004 it went to .544, where it stayed until FY2009 when the Mayor and Commissioners lowered the adopted tax rate to .504, and then again in FY2010 when they lowered it to .464.

    Are we really going to complain about that?

  5. Also, the state is responsible for determining the constant yield, not Mayor Fisona. The constant yield had to increase because property assessments dropped and the constant yield is needed to determine a consistent amount of revenue.

  6. Josue: Thanks for your thoughts on this matter.

  7. Fred: No, as we reported, it was not a tax increase for the town will get the same amount of property taxes as they received last year. That’s because they met the constant yield, a value that will result in your payment being about the same as last time. As the town finance officer pointed out, this year was a little different since property assessment values had fallen and thus to get the same amount from a homeowner the rate was raised. But the bottom line is that you won’t see any difference in what you pay.

    As for your point about why they didn’t cut the assessment when the property values were cgoing up 25%, that’s one the administration would have to answer (Assuming you have the correct number) for that would be a tax increase.

  8. Debbie: Correct, the public is not allowed to speak. That’s one of the challenges for the public in trying to give some guidance to town officials. It would be better to hear the concerns of citizens so they could factor those in.

  9. Patrick, you are correct the taxpayer should be paying the same amount as last year. The complexity was the falling property tax rate, which caused them to have to add a small amount in order to get the same amount of revenue from a taxpayer, as we reported.

  10. Patrick we agree. The constant yield, a subject that seems to confuse a lot of people, including the Cecil Whig, is developed by the state. Last year when the county took an increase above the constant yield, the Whig called it a tax cut. But in Mayor Fisona’s case he’s holding the amount paid by individuals steady this year, as we reported.

  11. In 2004 the 400 home Patriots Glen Development was almost complete. The Town of Elkton for years to come would benefit from this project. I estimated that this development alone would generate (325,000 average value house X .444/$100=$1443 per home X 400 =)$577,200 in new revenue each year. This would be more than enough to budget salary increases for all Town departments for many years to come. We would also be able to budget money for economic development for the Town as well as we were planning on purchasing a 120 acre site for recreation. In 2004 fiscal, the New Town Mayor and Commissioners approved the 25% rate increase. With revenue of close to $10 million, the Town would generate an additional $2.5 million per year……Our home owners of the Town of Elkton have been overtaxed since 2004!!!!!! When Jim Crouse served as Mayor (for over 20 years) he kept about $150,000 in the “rainy day fund”. I kept about the same for my 4 years as Mayor. I remember in 1997 or 1998 we had about $25,000 more than in other years so we decided to make a donation to the schools in the Town of Elkton with new computers.
    My understanding is that the Town of Elkton under Mayor Fisona has over $5,000,000 in the “rainy day fund.” This money needs to go back to the home owners and property owners of the Town of Elkton. The tax rate should be reduced by at least 25% or rebate checks back to the tax payers.
    I will address the water and sewer rates later!!!!

  12. Rob, thanks for your insight and understanding on this important subject. Appreciate the comments.

  13. Rob

    Since these numers are genreating such a lively discussion on this post about the town maintaining the constant yield, I’ve started cranking the numbers. They’re supplied from the official sources and I see what you’re referencing in 2004.

    That year alone the town took a nearly 26% increase. What was going on that they needed such a large increase for town government?

    Starting with 2003 and going up to 2010 (since the new budget hasn’t been published or adopted), the town has increased it’s tax levy on individuals by 54%.

    It is right that for the past two years, they held the line on increases, though in one year those years the mayor had planned to take an increase and advertised that fact in the newspaper. But the board turned that around and said let’s hold the line. This year the proposal is to hold the line too.

    I was planning on doing a fact check since most of them appear to be running as fiscal conservatives, but the dialog on this exchange is pushing that examination ahead. I haven’t started on the water and sewer rates yet. I’ll get to that next to see what the actual impact of those were on citizens.

    Interesting how many fiscal conservatives are around these days, or at least that’s what they claim. Having carefully watched them for over two years now, it’s amazing how much the climate as changed as they reluctantly approved a budget that met the constant yield. I remember not to far back when there was only one voice about holding down costs, and that was Gary Storke.

    The other one with solid credentials for holding down the cost of government, as you noted, was Jim Crouse. Man was he careful with the people’s money and he used to take heat from special interest groups that wanted money for this or that. But he was up to that task and managed things strategically.

  14. Mike,
    The cost of construction should never have any impact on water/sewer rates. The construction is paid for by the major facility fee that the municipality collects for every building lot and renovations in businesses. An example of this, once again is Patriots Glen Development. 400 homes X $15,000 hookup or major facility fee = $6,000,000. This money alone would pay the debt service on a $50,000,000 waste water treatment plant. The water/sewer rate should be determined by the cost to run the operations of the plant. My understanding is that Severn Trent charges the Town about $2,500,000 per year to operate the plants. You take that number and divide it by the number of households to give you a base rate. In theory, the more households the less the base rate should be. Since 2002, I am sure that the Town has added 500-600 more households. Why would the rate DOUBLE since then? I know that the cost to operate the plant has not gone up much in the last several years. Where is the money going?

  15. Hey just leave it alone. People need a break right now. Joe’s got enough of my money in the bank. It wouldn’t have hurt him to give us a little break. Just saying that’s all

  16. Elkton brown bagger

    Time for my lunch. Bet the town paid for them pliticans to have lunch at Bentley’s. I couldnt go. Had to work and couldn’t afford it. Imagine that. Didn’t get to hear all them promises.

  17. Fred: Someone Noticed understood the point you were making in an earlier post about letting the citizens have the minor savings by not adjusting the rate to meet the constant yield. Thanks for posting your thoughts on this.

  18. Elkton Brownbagger

    Thanks for stopping by during your lunch hour. Sorry you weren’t able to attend the candidates forum. As for whether the candidates meals were paid for by the town, we’d have to ask them. The officials do have expense accounts for matters of that type. But expense accounts would only apply, if they did in this case to Mayor Fisona and Commissioner Jablonski since the others aren’t on the city’s payroll.

  19. What the hell, what the hell.

    Ole Sam for mayor. Can’t do no worse. That’s what I say.

    Ole Sam for mayor. Don’t forget

  20. curious George

    Uh, uh when did Joe start watching out for us voters. He never met a costly project he didn’t like for all those years. I remember most of them. Guess its election time. Uh I get it. That’s why Joe worries about my wallet suddenly. Yap its election time.

  21. Curious George:

    For the first time, since we started covering the mayor and commissionrs of Elkton as a media outlet, they really were concerned about approving the tax rate this year. Although they added a penny to level the outcome, it made it the same as last year. That extra penny replaced revenue that was lost when the appraisals of home dropoed. In the past when the assessments went up local government often took a portion of that increase to get additional revenue, though in Elkton’s case this makes the third year that the town had maintained a level property levy. Despite the fact that the taxed amount was the same, no one wanted to make the motion to approve the budget and it took minutes of probing to get an agreement at the workshop.

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