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Mayoral Candidates Discuss Taxes

Incumbent and challenger discuss their views on taxes in Havre de Grace.

Patch asked the candidates for the May 3 election to share their opinions on more than a dozen topics relating to the city.

In this installment, the candidates for Havre de Grace mayor—incumbent Wayne Dougherty and challenger City Councilman Mitch Shank—discuss taxes in Havre de Grace:

Wayne Dougherty

Dougherty is proud of his accomplishments with taxes while Mayor.

“The last four years I’ve been Mayor, I’ve lowered the taxes every year,” he said. “We’ve got a penny in this year for reduction. We’ll see how council handles that.”

Dougherty reflects back to when he was first elected, having had the foresight to start setting Havre de Grace up to survive the economic struggles that the entire nation has endured.

“Did we expect it? I could see the writing on the wall,” he said. “I saw it in 2007 when I became Mayor, and I started making cuts at that time without cutting services. That was the most important part. Taxes are inevitable. We’re not going to get away from it.”

Dougherty said the city’s services are tied directly to taxes, and it’s an expense he can live with.

“I feel our taxes give us a clean community, a safe community, and provides the service necessary,” he said. “I think our crews have clearly demonstrated that with the last two winters and our weather events. I think our employees clearly demonstrate that with the major events we have in our city. Public safety and cleanliness.”

Dougherty thinks the city has done well in lowering the tax rate over the last few years, but he sees the potential for another five cents to be cut.

“I’d like to see them go a little bit lower,” he said. “I look to one day seeing that tax rate down to about 55 cents. Right now, I’m doing everything that I can. We are cutting everything that we can. Hopefully, we are weathering this storm and we will weather this storm.”

Mitch Shank

Shank said the city needs some vision for taxes.

“We have to come up with a three-to-five-year plan,” Shank said.

Shank’s biggest issue with taxes is in terms of residential tax—where he feels Havre de Grace residents are paying a significant amount more than their neighbors in Harford County.

“Havre de Grace’s property taxes are 20 percent higher than for the exact same house in Bel Air. Their tax rate is 50 cents, ours is 60. That’s a 20 percent difference,” Shank said. “The people who are moving down here, all the sudden, are going, ‘Whoa.’”

Shank said the question potential residents need to ask is, are the city’s perks worth it?

“Those who live along the Susquehanna River, from the lighthouse north, pay an additional 10 percent property tax. Critical area,” he said. “We’re the only city left in the state that has a 5 percent boat slip tax. We have the highest business tax. In his budget, [Dougherty] is raising the ramp fee from $8 to 10. That doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a 25 percent increase.”

Shank sees the distributed expense from the water and sewer fund as a cover-up for enabling a tax cut.

“[Mayor Dougherty] is proposing a one-cent tax reduction and a 10-percent water-sewer increase,” Shank said. “That, to me, is almost a wash.”

Shank said there’s a general disrespect for the taxpayer within City Hall, and he has one long-term goal that could help solve that perception.

“One of the things I’d like to see is all the department heads required to live in the city,” Shank said. “I think that would change, it would take time, but it would change the way they think when they make recommendations.”

———

Other issues the candidates for mayor have addressed:

—April 20

—April 21

—April 22

—April 23

Sharon Duncan May 01, 2011 at 02:09 AM
Oh... and Wayne does not appear to have any sympathy for the dilemma that Bulle Rock residents are experiencing. Might be a bad move on his part.
SHAWN HURST May 01, 2011 at 02:16 AM
Why do we have a city council?? It appears to me from the above post the Mayor alone makes ALL the decisions. Sharon can you get your information right? Please post who on the council voted for the Boys & Girls Club. Who voted on the deductible health insurance program? Who voted for the Water and Sewer rates? Sharon has and will continue to blame the mayor for everything. Everyone needs to remember what else Mitch promised. He said he would have more public input on decisions. The citizens will all the members of the Shank camp helping to make decision in our city. That is a pretty scary thought. The citizens need to realize this. A vote for Mitch is a vote for his entire camp.
Sharon Duncan May 01, 2011 at 02:20 AM
Mind you... I have a certain respect for Wayne and his efforts in managing the city. I disagree with his priorities and his management manner. He had the courage to throw his hat in the ring when no one else would for a somewhat thankless job. I do respect that. Mitch feels he can have a positive impact on various issues that have been left unaddressed by Wayne. It is time for change. It is time for a new direction that considers the needs of a larger group of taxpayers and voters than served by Wayne. I hope other voters see things from my perspective.
SHAWN HURST May 01, 2011 at 02:20 AM
Maybe because Wayne hasn't been invited to the "Happy Hours". And maybe Wayne knows he can't make promises he can't keep. Let's face it, Mitch can't keep any of the promises he is making with Bulle Rock. He is only worrying about the votes from them.
Tom Fitzpatrick May 01, 2011 at 03:23 PM
You know that Councilman Craig has made similar comments about a new High School. It was an applause line in last Thursday's OPAC debate. Yet he has no direct power to make it happen either. Funny, but I don't see you attacking him for that.......

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