IN THE SHIFTING political sands of Prince George's County -- where redistricting, a reshaped council and fiscal malaise are all feeding the political mix this fall -- the focus in November will be on TRIM, the financial belt that doesn't fit this growing jurisdiction anymore. The election returns this month and the ballot question coming next are connected to calls for an essential change in this property tax cap, and if financial realism prevails, so will an amendment to ease the squeeze of TRIM.
While the candidates' views on TRIM and efforts to modify it may not have made or broken campaigns, clearly the winners from both parties, with one or two exceptions, had gone on record in favor of some modification of TRIM. One of the strongest supporters of a TRIM modification amendment on the November ballot is the Democratic candidate for county executive, Parris Glendening, who strongly endorsed the Plus 4 ballot proposal that would allow the county council to increase by up to 4 percent annually the amount of property tax revenues collected.
In the Republican contest for the county executive nomination, William J. Goodman, co-author of the TRIM amendment, lost to Ann Shoch, who said during the campaign, "I believe TRIM should be slightly modified," but who also said she opposes the Plus 4 proposal. She would prefer that the question come up during a presidential election year and not during off- year local elections, "when too many candidates are using this as nothing more than a political vehicle to play to the fears of county residents. . . ."
But is it "fears" or realistic frugality that is generating calls for change? Modifying TRIM is essential if Prince George's is to continue addressing or compensating for decreases in state and federal aid -- if only to keep even. Besides, the application of Plus 4 and the limited additional revenue it would yield would still be up to the next council. That is why the soundest financial course for Prince George's includes this recognition of a modest strengthening of the county's revenue base.