When Worcester County Commissioner Chip Bertino said one of the budget requests from the Town of Berlin on Tuesday shouldn’t fall on the shoulders of county taxpayers, he overlooked a significant point — Berlin taxpayers are county taxpayers too.
All taxpayers in Worcester’s municipalities are also county taxpayers, and they contribute a huge portion of the county’s tax revenue. Considering that, what Bertino should have said is that a portion of Berlin’s request should not fall on the shoulders of county taxpayers who live elsewhere.
But that really isn’t the point. In the game of tax rates, it isn’t a question of property owners having to pay taxes for things and services that don’t benefit them directly — there’s quite a bit of that — it’s a matter of whose tax rate gets blamed.
Obviously, the county’s elected officials want to be reelected, as do their counterparts in Berlin, Ocean City, Snow Hill and Pocomoke, so it’s in the interest of all these officials to try to shift the tax burden to another entity. Meanwhile, the taxpayer will still have to pay, assuming that the particular service or improvement to be funded is needed or wanted by residents.
In the meantime, the county has its own problems with tax burdens imposed by another entity over which it has no control. State-required education spending dominates the county’s budget and there’s not one thing the county can do about it.
The bottom line is all the municipalities and the Ocean Pines Association want to push the expense of something they desire onto the county’s books, while the county wants to keep as much as possible of the communities’ contributions to help cover its own to-do lists and obligations.
There just isn’t enough money to go around, not that there ever was, which reduces the whole business of tax rates and property assessments down to a matter of who can brag about holding the line and who can’t.