A proposal by county commissioners Robin Frazier and Richard Rothschild to lower the Homestead Tax Credit is illustrative of the poor management and lack of planning that has been their hallmark while serving on the board.
The Homestead Tax Credit limits increases in taxable assessments to a certain percentage. By law, counties have to set at least a 10 percent limit. Carroll's Homestead Tax Credit is set at 5 percent. Frazier and Rothschild on Tuesday proposed reducing that to 3 percent and, when that vote failed, to 4 percent. The vote on the decrease to 4 percent also failed.
Commissioners Haven Shoemaker, David Roush and Doug Howard voted against the decrease because they said it was something that should be determined by the new, because the county is already struggling to make ends meet and, probably most importantly, because any decisions of that type should be considered in relation to the entire budget process.
Everyone wants lower taxes. And finding ways to reduce fees is something we should not only expect, but demand from our elected officials. But those decreases should come after careful consideration and after plans are made for how the decrease in revenue will be made up elsewhere or what services would be cut.
Saying you want to cut any taxes without having a plan to address the reduction in revenue is reckless. The lack of thought of the consequences of their actions is evident in the fact that Ted Zaleski, director of the county's Department of Management and Budget, told the commissioners he could not give exact numbers on how much tax revenue the county would lose if the proposal passed.
A third of the county is reassessed each year. If the commissioners wanted to lower the Homestead Tax Credit, they should wait until the next assessment, determine the average increase or decrease in those property values and the impact on the county and then compile data on projected revenue at the current rate and at a reduced rate. Only then would they have an understanding of the impact of such an action.
Services across the county have suffered the past four years because this board made it a priority to lower taxes, and they all have touted the fact that they've lowered them each year they have been in office. But lowering taxes is only half of the equation. And this board has been lax in figuring out ways to make up the revenue decreases without causes an burden on existing services.
The new board that takes office after the general election – and that will include at least three of the five commissioners – should be the ones making the decision on tax rates. Hopefully they will exercise a little more common sense and determine the impact of such a decision prior to rushing to action.