Every year about this time, the person occupying the office of the Harford County Executive gives a speech. Those words are generally called the State of the County.
Almost without exception, he or she, yes, Harford once elected and re-elected a woman as its executive, has painted a rosy picture of where the county is economically, emotionally, financially, etc., etc., etc. The sentiment most often expressed during the state of the county address is “The State of the County is strong.”
Not every executive uses anything close to those words, but be assured they do their best to project the brightest, rosiest, strongest picture of the county that they can. They claim all the good stuff they can and, as much as possible, they dump all the bad on their predecessor. And then they say how the coming year will be wonderful. That’s true even more so in election years.
This year, an election year, was no different when Barry Glassman stepped before the cameras and microphones last Tuesday. He extolled all the positives he claims his administration has accomplished. He got in at least one dig at his predecessor. And then he laid out a plan for the rest of 2018. Don’t forget, that includes voting for him for another four years.
As he spelled out and we reported last week, Glassman has accomplished quite a bit. Even from our somewhat cynical perspective, there is much about the state of the county for Glassman and all of us to be happy about. We gladly give him his due for what his administration has accomplished and wish him continued success for the remainder of 2018.
There are also things that could be better. When talking about the county’s financial reserves being restored after being nearly depleted by the previous administration, Glassman reminded us that there’s more money coming into the county’s coffers and not much going back to the taxpayers. Taxes were cut, deservedly so, for senior citizens and veterans who have lived in the same home for at least 40 years.
No one else got a tax break. As we have reported elsewhere and talked about in this space, Harford County property owners have all had their taxes increased, some more than once, in the last five years. That’s because for five straight years property value assessments have increased. Those assessments are used for setting how much in taxes each property will be charged. So, while the property tax rate hasn’t increased, the value of our properties being charged that same tax rate have increased. Bottom line: We all are paying more in property taxes.
It would be nice for taxpayers to get some of that back. Cutting taxes always sounds good, but is rarely done, except at the federal level where they can spend as much as they want and just keep borrowing more to cover the difference between what they collect and what they spend. At the state and county levels, the budget has to be balanced so it’s a lot harder to give money back.
There’s also the black cloud of never-ending health insurance and prescription medicine cost increases hanging over many of us, as Glassman correctly pointed out. Whether it’s the county government, any of our small businesses or any of us, each year we pay more for health care and very few, if any, get commensurate raises to offset those increases.
As we go forward, those items and others will need to be addressed. But all in all, we agree with Glassman that the state of Harford County is good and strong and certainly a whole lot better than it was 10 years ago as we were about to be faced with the economic crisis of 2008.