Editor: I am writing in response to your article “Lovettsville Eyes Meals Tax to Fund Street Projects.” While the piece accurately touches on policy differences, it stops short of addressing why the Council set funds aside in the first place.
One of my first actions on the council was to begin reviewing our taxes and to seek relief for residents. These efforts included not only supporting real estate tax reductions, but also seeking to eliminate the meals tax imposed on our restaurants- a tax no other type of business is required to pay and is in addition to other business taxes or fees.
The previous council did not support my effort to eliminate or reduce the meals tax. They did however vote unanimously on my amendment to dedicate meals tax funds to streetscape improvements and connect residents with our elementary school, shops, library, parks and the rest of Town. It is too tempting to fritter away tax dollars on small projects with little or no impact on the Town as a whole. Thus portions of Lovettsville have not seen improvement for decades and will languish decades more unless the Town devotes monies for that purpose in advance.
Several new council members have staged outspoken opposition to setting aside funds for improvements which would connect the historic areas of Lovettsville to our businesses and community facilities. Curiously, this outcry is led by Members who enjoy sidewalks outside their own front door and have claimed that their families can easily walk to shops and the library. Yet they refuse to support such access for others.
Fundamentally the debate centers on why the town should collect taxes at all and, in so doing, whether those funds should have a specific purpose. I need not physically pound on the dais with demands to distort fiscal policy, or conflate budgeting with approving individual projects, to justify infrastructure expenditures. Unfortunately, several newer council members ignore the very basic tenets of taxation: fairness, certainty, convenience and efficiency. But collecting taxes is only one side of the equation.
Our residents are asked to pay taxes to fund a budget, rather than craft a budget to fit within a reasonable tax policy. Such an approach postulates that the Town is somehow entitled to a certain budget level and should seek every tax policy at its disposal to take the requisite funds from the pockets of our families, diners, small businesses and tourists. The deficit budget I, and half the Council, just voted against fails this reasonable test, fails to tackle the largest overhead costs in the Town budget and fails to fund a single infrastructure reserve account.
There are clearly some who prefer to hoard all revenues in a general fund to be used on an ad-hoc basis and to keep taxing just because they can. However, I will continue fighting to minimize the taxes our families have to pay and ensure those funds are spent with purpose.
Mike Dunlap, Lovettsville Town Council