Beauchamp seeks tax fair­ness, open govern­ment

Record Observer - - News - By MIKE DAVIS mdavis@kibay­times.com

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.

CON­TRIB­UTED PHOTO

Jim Beauchamp, right, takes the oath to of­fice for his sec­ond term as a Cen­tre­ville town coun­cil­man Mon­day, April 11.

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