Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Middlebrooks Wises Up...Sort of

A curious thing happened on the way to the Council, it appears Ed Middlebrooks finally got a clue. During the discussions, late last year, about a dedicated fund for stormwater repairs, certain "anti-tax" Republicans like Ed Middlebrooks asked, "why not a dedicated fund for schools, or other infrastructure?" The question seems to have sparked a rare good idea from the Councilman.

Early last week, he sponsored a resolution, which passed the Council, asking the County Legislative Delegation to give the County the capacity to raise the transfer tax on the sale of homes to collect additional funds for school maintenance and other infrastructure backlogs.

It turns out, however, that the County Executive and most of the County Delegation oppose the increase and are unlikely to push the State enabling legislation.

The Executive's chief objection is that it would be better to achieve these ends by raising the impact fees. The problem is, impact fees can't be used for routine maintenance, but must instead be used to pay for expansion of existing facilities.

The proper solution involves compromise on each side, the Council owes it to the citizens of the County to hike the impact fees to 100% of cost, regardless of the whinery of the development community, and the Executive needs to recognize that the $1.5 billion backlog of school maintenance can't be dealt with through impact fees, and needs a steady funding stream of its own.

The most beautiful aspect of the proposals is that increases in both are unlikely to have much impact on the pocketbooks of existing residents and put the County on a much more sound fiscal footing for decades to come.

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