Commissioners made the hard choices and took the heat

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

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Cheap political theater was on full display by many of those testifying at the May 20 Charles County commissioners' budget meeting.

Rather than watching a serious discussion or comments on the budget, viewers were subjected to a litany of tired old talking points from the worn-out playbooks of defeated Republican politicians or would-be politicians yearning for attention, inflamed rhetoric and the claim by the teachers union that the end of public education as we know it is at hand.

This charge by the union was made all the more bizarre by the appearance of the school board chairman asking for more funds despite his acceptance and that of his board colleagues of the education budget compromise two weeks ago. The argument that education will be hurt by this budget is baloney any way you slice it.

The facts are these: Decreased revenue and a dismal economy weighed heavily on the county budget for fiscal year 2009-2010, not purchasing a handful of vehicles or hiring a security officer who makes less than the average teacher in Charles County. Let's try not to be silly.

In addition, the state shared revenue, which is the second largest revenue source behind property taxes, dropped like a rock, especially in education.

Despite the challenges, the county government could be in much worse shape. The county commissioners' conservative approach to budgeting has paid off this year, unlike our state legislature which has a genuine appetite to spend money and raise your taxes. One example of their nonsense, is creating a two-tier drivers license system, one for legal drivers and one for illegal aliens.

This will cost millions of dollars to administer; they could have put that money toward education. Perhaps the union and school board should ask our delegates who supported this legislation why it was done, making Maryland the only such state to have such a harebrained system. While they're at it, they can ask why our property assessments keep increasing since it's a state responsibility not the county commissioners'.

Notwithstanding the miserable economy and the substantial drop in revenue, the county commissioners were able to pass a budget to ensure taxpayers will not see an increase in the tax rate this year.

No teachers will lose their jobs, education still represents 52.4 percent of the budget and infrastructure investments along with road improvements will continue.

The board's perennial critics, and there are some, have every right to speak out, but this board of commissioners made the hard choices and took the heat. This budget by any objective analysis supports education, protects public safety and core services and continues to invest in the future.

Joe Richard, La Plata