Beauchamp seeks tax fairness, open government
CENTREVILLE — Centreville Town Councilman Jim Beauchamp is starting his second three-year term. He was the only one to file by deadline, so the election was canceled, and he continues in office. Though he found the path to office was easier this time around, he said the challenges of office remain similar.
Lowering taxes by further refining the tax set-off process with the county government, continuing economic development and creating a more open and responsive government are three things Beauchamp said he will continue to fight for during his second term.
Beauchamp said his proudest achievement in office so far has been the progress the town has made in the tax setoff discussions. As the new guy on the council and one with a finance background, Beauchamp was charged with challenging the county commission about its “Aid to Towns,” which was the line item in the county’s budget for providing money to the municipalities when he first started. Beauchamp said the aid was the same amount for “as long as anyone can remember.”
Having studied the state law, analyzed documents and talked to people and organizations like the Maryland Municipal League, Beauchamp went before the county with tables, a 150-page book the Department of Legislative Services publishes annually on tax set-offs, and made his case for more money for Centreville.
The county continued with the “Aid to Towns” his first year despite his presentation, but behind the scenes he kept pushing for tax fairness. Beauchamp credits then-Commissioner David Dunmyer for championing the issue.
“They got a law through on this tax set-off thing, and it’s really been a big deal. I think it’s my proudest accomplishment, and it turns out it’s not just an accomplishment for Centreville because all of the municipalities in the county have benefited greatly from it,” he said. “...I’m really, really proud to have sort of built this bridge between the municipalities and the county government.”
Centreville residents had reduced property tax rates by 5.4 cents per $100 of assessed valuation in 2015, 8.4 cents per $100 of assessed valuation in 2016 and 9.5 cents per $100 of assessed valuation for 2017.
Though the commission has never fully granted the town’s request of about 16 cents, Beauchamp said he will fight for tax fairness as long as he is allowed to represent the town during bud- get discussions.
“That is certainly something that has immediate impact. It’s been beneficial to our citizens,” he said. “They haven’t had a reduction in services concurrent with the lowering of taxes, which you normally think you’ll have to cut something.”
Beauchamp said he was also happy with the creation of the Centreville Economic Development Authority and the work it has done in its short life.
“We grow by choice, not by chance, and that has so many layers and so much depth to it,” Beauchamp said. “At one layer, I don’t think that we have to grow. There’s no reason that a town has to grow, but if we do, let’s make sure we do it well.”
Based on his constituents’ requests and his general philosophy of wanting Centreville to be “Somewhere, U.S.A, and not Anywhere, U.S.A.,” Beauchamp said opposed a proposed Royal Farms project in the business park, reinforcing the idea of smart growth that fits the community early in his first term.
Beauchamp said when the town goes through its Comprehensive Plan in the next cycle it put an ordinance in place to refer to the Economic Development Plan created by CEDA as a layout for future planning.
Beauchamp, who is certified in the field by the International Economic Development Council, said economic development is a fuzzy thing.
“You always have to have this incredibly long-range vi- sion ... It takes a long time to get to where you want to go, and if you have the patience and perseverance you’ll get there,” Beauchamp said. “... It’s difficult to keep that balance of keeping moving forward incrementally with the big picture hanging out there. Sometimes you get impatient and do something silly ... Sometimes you seem obstructionist because you’re waiting for the right solution instead of any solution.”
One specific project Beauchamp said he would like to see in Centreville is the creation of a continuing care operation in the business park. Keeping up with literature and attending industry conferences on continuing care facilities, Beauchamp said it seems like “such a perfect fit with Symphony Village there, the ability for those people to age in place and to have the security that as time takes its toll they have a close option, close to their spouse, close to their friends, close to the family ... That’s really important to me.”
As well as being able to provide security and peace of mind to older town residents, Beauchamp said such a care facility would also bring in highly skilled jobs with good pay, and with the push from Chesapeake College and its health care program, local residents could have an opportunity to work in the area they grew up in.
“It just seems like all the pieces are just ready to fall right into place,” he said. “... But, in this age of instant gratification, you still have to back up and do it right. You have to make sure you get it right, and that’s always hard.”
Through his first three years exploring economic development opportunities such as a continuing care facility, Beauchamp has also fought for a more transparent and open government. Thinking of himself as an elected official, not a politician, Beauchamp said it is not only his job to go out and listen to the residents but also to provide them with timely information. Policies have been enacted to publish meeting documents prior to town council and other departmental meetings. Beauchamp said budget discussions are also more open and sequential.
Public debate is still uncomfortable for Beauchamp, he said, though he understands its importance.
“I do enjoy the results,” he said. “I’m very proud of what I’m doing even when I lose a vote, lose an argument. I’m still proud of the position I take and proud that I’ve been able to shed some light on it anyway.”
Beauchamp’s fellow councilmen are Tim McCluskey and George “Smokey” Sigler.
Jim Beauchamp, right, takes the oath to office for his second term as a Centreville town councilman Monday, April 11.