Sunday, April 16, 2023

Promises, Promises


Election Day for Columbia Village Boards and positions on the CA Board is April 22nd. That’s next Saturday. You don’t actually have to vote on the day itself. You may mail in your ballot (act soon!) and in many villages there is now electronic voting. Finally.

I have a question about a particular campaign promise that some of the candidates for CA Board are making. I’m throwing it out to you all for some feedback.

I see that some candidates are running on a promise “not to raise the cap on assessed properties.” The last time it was raised was in 2016 (for fiscal year 2017) to its current rate of 3.5 per cent. Why is this an important promise to make? And, more to the point, is it realistic and/or responsible?

CA’s main sources of revenue are from the sales of memberships for the use of various facilities, and the monies derived from what is called The Annual Charge. From the CA website:

Your annual charge allows CA to manage and maintain all of the programs and facilities we enjoy in Columbia, including nearly 3,600 acres of open space, 95 miles of pathways, lakes, ponds, tot lots and athletic courts, not to mention free entertainment, wellness programming and multicultural events throughout the year. This is all part of providing the high quality of life that has seen Columbia frequently ranked among the top places to live in America.

Looking at this from a very basic, kitchen-table point of view, I see that costs for everything around us are going up, up, up but some folks expect CA to provide the same amenities and services without any increases to them personally. How are they going to pay for all that? The Columbia Association can’t go out and get another job to make ends meet. 

If the cost to maintain facilities and services and care for open space goes up, but their revenue does not, what can they do? From where I’m sitting it looks like they have to reduce what is provided. (Or sell things off?)  Truthfully, they’ve been trying to find ways to cut costs for quite some time now. 

I’ve seen people complain that the Columbia Association doesn’t fund things the way they used to. Is that purely at the direction of the citizen board or is it a result of diminishing income in relation to costs? 

I’m not an accountant. I’m writing this with a bit of trepidation that I am going to be mowed down by responses from people who know a lot more about how the CA budget works than I do. On the other hand, maybe you all can help me learn something. Perhaps you all can teach each other something, too.

I’ve read through the candidate statements published in the Flier, as well as the survey responses at The Merriweather Post. I see a lot of familiar themes expressed - - some new ones, as well. But the one about the cap on assessments bugs me. Is is just a Columbia version of “read my lips: no new taxes”?

Does anyone want to pay more for anything if their own income stays the same? Probably not. Are people willing to pay more if they realize it is necessary to maintain something of high value to them and their community? 


It depends on how engaged they are, how it is framed, and how much wiggle room they have in their family budget. I’m wondering how much wiggle room the Columbia Association has in their family budget.

In a Columbia election what are the important promises to make? Is keeping the cap on assessments at the FY 2017 level one of them?

Village Green/Town² Comments 

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