Thursday, February 23, 2012

Is The CPRA Lien Fair? (Thursday LINKS)

There was a Columbia Association Board meeting last night, but it was not long enough to justify a Board Recap.  By that, I mean it was only two hours (sad face) with approximately 45 minutes being closed (re: contract negotiations).

A focal point of last night's discussion was the Columbia Parks and Recreation Association Lien also referred to as "the Assessment."  Before last night's meeting, it was 68 cents for every $100 of assessed value with a 2.5% increase cap for any individual home-owner.  After last night, it was 68 cents for every $100 of assessed value with a 2.5% increase cap for any individual home-owner.  (For those working as slow as I am this morning, it stayed the same).

I emphasize that because to hear some of our Board members speak last night you would think we voted on an increase.  In fact, you may have heard people say things like "A resident's property value may have gone down 20-30% yet they will still be paying more to CA."  I couldn't tell if this was populist nonsense or a general misunderstanding of property taxes, caps, and assessments.  CA staff provided a guesstimate that approximately 0.4% of all Columbia residents would be paying more in FY2013 than they did in FY2012.  Forget Occupy's 99%...think of the 0.4%!

This is an area of great misunderstanding.  Property taxes and the CA Assessment are both based on property value with maximum annual increases in what your actual payment will be.  As such, as your property value goes up, your tax/assessment will only go up in accordance with the stepped cap (5% or 2.5%).  For short-term home-owners (1-5 years), it is an unfortunate possibility that your property assessments have gone down so far that you will be paying less in CPRA/Property taxes this year than you did last year.  For those who have been in their homes for 5-15 years, it is likely that your CPRA cap increase of 2.5% has kept your actual payment low enough that you have not seen an appreciable change over the last 5 years and almost certainly will not see an increase for FY2013.  Now, for those long-term property owners (15 years+), you may be part of the 0.4%.  If there remains increased value in your home that has not been reflected in the CPRA due to the 2.5% cap (i.e., if the assessment still needs to "catch up" with the increased assessment of your home), you may see an increase.  At most, it will be 2.5%.

If you want to call property appreciation a tax increase, that is your prerogative, but you would do well to provide an alternative, because that is the foundation of a property tax.  Notably, there were no alternatives proposed last night.  There were a number of nice sound bites regarding "compassion", "tough economic times" and that this Budget is a "failure", but none of the Board members suggested an alternative.  In my book, that's posturing.

Bottom line: No increase was passed last night.  I would not have voted for one.  I doubt there is anyone on that Board who would have voted for an increase.  We kept the assessment exactly where it is.  And in the face of declining property values, that is a merit to the Staff.  Not something that should be deemed a "failure."


TJ does a bang up job destroying Governor O'Malley's proposal to shift teacher pensions from the State to the counties.  It would be nice to see this picked up by the other Patches (is that how you use the plural of "Patch"?  Makes me think of an orange cat).  Most interesting to me was his discussion of how much teachers already pay into the pension, which is frequently acknowledged to be unsustainable.  Imagine paying into two retirement vehicles (SS and pension) that are repeatedly referred to as items that may not last the next 20-30 years.  (County employees -- this is why you should probably give a toot about OPEB, but I am not opening that can of worms today).

George Huguely, former UVA lacrosse player accused of murdering his girlfriend, has been found guilty and sentenced to 26 years.  This verdict is disturbing on many levels.  It is undisputed that Mr. Hughuely killed a 21 year old woman after previous instances of abuse.  That is a grave offense and one that I believe amounts to more than 2nd Degree Murder.  Nonetheless, Mr. Huguely's sentence is comparable to the jail time doled out for any number of crimes in Baltimore City relating to drugs.  Just drugs.  These are very different jurisdictions with very different juries, but I don't blame the juries.  I wonder what kind of criminal justice system we have that puts scores of young men in prison for half-lifetimes for drugs (just drugs), yet killing a woman in the prime of her life merits only 26 years.

Yet another audit has been released in Baltimore City: "The audit, released Wednesday, found that some homes received only estimated water bills for years at a time while others received no bills."  This adds up to about $4.2 million issued back to the bill-payers.

Featured Blog Post of the Day:  Here's some truth -- If it had not been for HowChow, I would never have tried Korean food.  It's nice to be able to link certain life experiences back to particular folks that had an influence on your life.  For me, it was a blog.  HowChow gets back on the kimchi box to tell you why you should get out to Rte 40 and try some grilled meats.

That's all for today.  For those who asked, I am feeling much better.  Thank you for your concern.  I had heard horror stories about how this bug was a 7-10 day ordeal, but mine ended up being the slow buffalo.

Have a great Thursday doing what you love!