A broad coalition of Prince George's County business, community and labor leader has launched a campaign to modify the county's TRIM charter amendment, the year-old law that freezes the total amount of property taxes the county can collect.
TRIM, overwhelmingly approved by county votes in a referendum during the 1978 elections as part of a nationwide antitax movement, holds property tax collections in the county to the 1979 level of $142 million.
The coalition, organized by the Prince George's Chamber of Commerce, is attempting to put TRIM back on the ballot in 1980 in a modified for that allows tax collections to rise slightly with inflation, said chamber president and coalition spokesman V. Paul Zanecki.
Zanecki said the coalition was formed after the county adopted its first budget developed under the tax ceiling amendment. That budget included cuts in education, wages and some programs.
"We decided to look at it over a 10 year period and found . . . that the result would be somewhat catastrophic, like no schools, or new roads," he said.
Zanecki emphasized that all the coalition members were in favor of maintaining some control over taxes and government spending but the general feeling was that TRIM was too stringent and would force the county to become too dependent on state and federal aid.
The new referendum question being discussed by the coalition would also allow the county to tax any new development without such taxes being included under the $142 million ceiling.
Zanecki said final wording for the referendum question would be approved by the 15 or so groups in the coalition next monday. The groups would need to collect 10,000 signatures of county votes to have the TRIM modification placed on the ballot in 1980.
The coalition Zanecki said, will also try to get support for the modification from the county's elected officials, including the County Council, which by a vote of support could also place the measure on the 1980 ballot.
While many county politicians have said privately that they believe TRIM will hurt the county fiancially if it is not amended or recinded soon, have voiced such sentiments publicly.
"Basically, I don't think too many legislators still support it (TRIM)," state De. Gerard F. Devlin said. "There are a lot of close TRIM modifiers here."
Devlin said he believes TRIM has "already accomplished what was desired, tightening up spending. But it will become a stranglehold with inflation as high as it is. Without the $15 million in state aid we were able to get last year, we would be having a catastrophe."
In the county budget approved last spring, 31 percent of the revenue came from property taxes and the rest from state, federal and other county sources such as transfer taxes.
Devlin said that currently there are efforts under way on the state level to reduce the amount of state funding to counties and if any of those measures pass, "I don't know how Prince George's will survive," he said.
Most County Council members and Prince George's County Executive Lawrence Hogan take a less pessimistic veiw of the effects of TRIM over time.
"I'm opposed to modifying it now," 'ogan said. "Put it on the ballot in 1984."
However, at least two council members, Francis. B. Francois and Parris Glendening, have said they are concerned about the impact of TRIM in the the next two or three years.
When TRIM came up, many of us did not do great acts of courage and say, 'Hey, let's see what we're getting into.' We all just jumped on the band-wagon," said Glendening, who is now council chairman. "I'm not in favor of a complete repeal, but personally I favor a modification that will allow us to tax new growth."