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Sunday, August 24, 2008

August 12, 2008

Attached to this email and pasted below is my report on issues and items I believe to be important to Mount Rainier and Mount Rainier’s residents. This Report is also on my blog: http://themayorsspot.blogspot.com. (You may need to copy the link and paste it in the URL Address line.)

Summer is almost over, and we are about to enter into the fall of the year. For many of us it is time to start thinking about getting our children back in school, and losing a few extra pounds gained over the summer. I am sure that the coming of fall is a time to do many different things. Below are a few other things that might be appropriate for this time of year.

Appealing your tax assessment

Every property owner has the right to appeal the notice of assessment of his or her property tax assessment within 45 days of the date of the notice. Regular reassessment notices are issued once every three years and usually mailed in late December. In addition to the regular reassessment notice, the law requires a notice be issued when the assessment on a property changes for the following reasons: a change in use or character of the property; substantial improvement to the property; or rezoning of the property.

If you believe your tax assessment is too high, call and set up an appointment to appeal before the deadline (December 31 this year). If not, you will be stuck with paying your property taxes with no recourse. You may also write a letter to your local tax assessment office.

When exercising this right, if feel that you are mistreated or treated unprofessionally, you can the State of Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation at (410) 767-4881 and ask to speak to the Director, C. John Sullivan, Jr. The toll free number is (888) 246-5941.

In addition, the Department of Assessments and Taxation administers a number of property tax relief programs that are specifically designed to provide needed relief to certain groups of property owners. Obtain additional information about these programs by calling the Department's Taxpayer Services Office at (410) 767-4433 (Baltimore area) or 1-800-944-7403 (toll free).

Homeowners’ Property Tax Credit Program

The Homeowners' Property Tax Credit Program (Circuit Breaker) is the largest and most important program in that it provides annual property tax credits to one out of every 17 homeowners who qualify because of income. This State funded program provides over $49 million in needed relief to homeowners who meet the eligibility criteria, regardless of age. These tax credits are not given automatically. The homeowner must reapply each year and provide information regarding the total gross household income (under $60,000) for the previous calendar year. The filing deadline is normally September 1, but has been extended to October 1, 2008. If your household income is less than $60,000, and you have a net worth less than #200,000, you may be eligible for this tax relief. For more information or to get an application visit the Department of Assessments and Taxation’s website at www.dat.state.md.us. The application is also available at Mount Rainier’s City Hall.

The tax credit is determined according to the relationship between the homeowner's income and actual property tax that is levied against the property owner's principal residence. The tax credit does not cover the full amount of the property tax. Rather, credits are computed according to a sliding scale, with the result that the tax credit diminishes as the gross household income increases.

Homestead Tax Credit Program

Another tax relief program is the Homestead Tax Credit. First enacted in 1977, the program has been amended so that homeowners may be eligible for a State tax credit if the assessment of their owner-occupied principal residence increased more than 10% over the prior year. State law requires that county and municipal governments set a Homestead Credit Percentage between 0% and 10% for purposes of local property taxation. Beginning in 2008, homeowners are required to submit a one-time tax credit application that is included in that year’s Assessment Notice sent to one-third of the property owners.

Property Tax Deferral

This program allows property owners, age 65 or older, to elect to defer the increase in their property tax bill. Each local government must first adopt the program. The local government then has the authority under State law to impose income restrictions and interest rate amounts. The deferred taxes become a lien on the property and must be repaid when the property is transferred. Montgomery County makes this deferral program available to homeowners of all ages who meet certain residency and income requirements.

Senior MUST file to get the stimulus package


Senior even if you do not normally file an income tax form, this year you must file in order to receive the economic stimulus packet. To qualify for the stimulus payment, you must file by Oct. 15 of this year.

Not everyone is eligible for the stimulus package. If you do not file your income taxes, you will certainly not receive the stimulus packet even if you are eligible.
Normally certain Social Security payments are not subject to income tax. However, the economic stimulus law passed in February contains a special provision allowing Social Security recipients to count those benefits toward the qualifying income requirement of $3,000 and thereby qualify for the stimulus payment.

For eligible Social Security recipients who do not normally file a tax return, the IRS has prepared an 8-page informational package that provides instructions, a sample Form 1040A and a blank Form 1040A — everything needed to file the tax form. Order or download Package 1040A-3, 8-page informational package

Do you need help with filing for the economic stimulus package? Call 1-800-829-1040. You might have to wait for Assistance, but do not give up. You may just walk-in to the following offices:

Walk-In Site Landover
Address 8401 Corporate Dr.

City Landover, MD 20785
Phone (202) 927-9361
Hours of Operation Landover hours

Walk-In Site Washington DC
Address 500 N. Capitol St. NW

City Washington, DC 20221
Phone (202) 874-6748
Hours of Operation Washington hours

This is a one-time offer and it ends on October 15!
NOTE: If you have already filed to get your payment, but have a question or issue, try this link (or go to one of the walk-in offices):
http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=177937,00.html

Getting help with HIGH-energy bills

The Office of Home Energy Programs (OHEP) helps low-income Maryland citizens pay their heating bills, minimize heating crises, and make energy costs more affordable. A comprehensive energy package, which includes the Maryland Energy Assistance Program and the Electric Universal Service Program, has links to the community and the customer. These programs promote energy conservation, customer financial responsibility and energy independence.

The Maryland Energy Assistance Program (MEAP) provides assistance with home heating bills. Limited assistance is available to replace broken or inefficient furnaces.

The Electric Universal Service Program (EUSP) is a state program that is administered by the Department of Human Resources to assist eligible low-income electric customers with their electric bills. Assistance is available whether you are an active customer or you are currently without service. Eligible electric customers may receive help in three ways:
Help to pay current electric bills;
Help to pay past due electric bills; and,
Help with energy efficiency measures to reduce future electric bills.

The Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) has moved to the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). OHEP will continue to refer eligible customers to WAP. WAP may provide home weatherization services to eligible individuals such as weather stripping, caulking, plastic window covering, etc. to help make your home or apartment more fuel efficient and comfortable at no cost. For additional information, please call 1800-638-7781 or log on to www.dhcd.state.md.us

The Utility Service Protection Program (USPP) protects low-income families from utility cut-offs and allows MEAP eligible households to enter into a year-round even monthly payment program with their utility company. An equal monthly payment plan based on the estimated cost of the customer's average annual utility usage minus the MEAP benefit will be used to determine the even monthly payments for participation in the USPP.

You may apply for all of these energy assistance programs with a single application. Eligible customers may receive help from both programs. For information contact the Local Home Energy Programs Office in your area, or call 1-800-352-1446. (For the hearing impaired-1-800-925-4434).

Immunization requirement for Maryland Children

PLEASE note that there is one revision to the 2008 – 2009 immunization requirements include:

Varicella (chickenpox) and Hepatitis B vaccine requirements will be required for children entering preschool programs through eleventh grades.

If you have school age children, please make sure that you check their immunization before returning them to school. Your child may be eligible for health insurance, contact the local health department at 301-333-4822 or 301-324-2933. If you have questions about immunization requirements or enforcement of immunization regulations, please contact your local health department or the Center for Immunization at (410) 767-6679.

Need an immediate preventive health screen?

Well, we just may have an answer. Partnering in our very own City is Joe’s Movement Emporium and Ivan L. Robinson and Associates to bring preventive health care to every Mount Rainier resident. The free preventive program will include numerous heart-healthy activities such as health screens, exercise therapy, aerobic strength building, Yoga, belly dancing, Tai Chi, meal planning and relaxation and massage therapy. In addition, the program will include immunization for children and seniors. For more information about this program, contact Ivan L. Robinson 202-652-0536 or Joe’s Movement Emporium 301-699-1819.

Drop-IN Basketball

June 6, 2008 Drop-in Basketball took off with “one” Mount Rainier youth showing up. He came the first day, probably only once after that, but he was the beginning of something wonderful. On that Saturday night, almost fifty (50) youths from Mount Rainier and Brentwood came out to play and to see what it was going on. Most of those young people came back each weekend and brought their friends, cousins, and some even brought their parents. At the end, the numbers dropped and gave way to football practice, but not before the youth made it known that it was something that should be continued.

A play off between the youth and our police officers was scheduled, but cancelled at the last minute because of logistics. It is rescheduled for Saturday, August 23, 208 at 6:00pm. All are invited to come out and see our young people and our police officers interact in a positive manner.

Speaking of basketball, have you noticed how many young people are using the basketball court at Arundel and 30th Streets? It is an activity whose time has come, and the young people are thrilled to have a place to gather, chat, shoot hoops, play a game or even entertain their younger siblings. There have been some issues with noise, getting them to leave the park at dark, cleaning up behind themselves, and now and then some foul language. However, for the most part, the basketball court has been a success. It is always in use, and attracts old and young to its nets.

As responsible adults, let us not rush to judgment to take down the hoops. I have had at least one call complaining that the park has become infested with drugs. I truly believe that this is an unwarranted complaint. Our police officers have been asked to check the park regularly, and on at least two occasions they have actually been called and gone to the park to check, but nothing has been found.

Keep in mind as you look at the basketball court as a nuisance, that it is the only recreational park available for our teens. There is no recreation center with ongoing activities. Only in May did we get a soccer goal for the children to play soccer on the fields of Thomas Stone Elementary School. This has been the state of affairs for our older teens for years. So, let us give them a chance and work with them to make it work.

The noise level is down, the hanging out on apartment steps is down, and our children are getting in some real physical exercise – good for the body, mind and soul. As with anything, we still need to monitor the park and ensure the safety of our children as they continue to use the park and the basketball courts. Please report any negative behavior or activities. Here are some of the standing rules that should be enforced:
1) The basketball court is a shared space for the community.
2) The court is a part of the park and closes at dusk, no exceptions.
3) Consumption of alcoholic beverages or any kind is illegal and will be punished.
4) Everyone is expected to pitch in with keeping the park clean and available to others.
5) Profanity, fighting, and just plain bad behavior will not be tolerated and will be cause for the basketball hoops to once again be permanently remove.

A Community Activist Says Her Final Goodbye

On August 7, 2008, the City of Mount Rainier lost to cancer one of its most active citizens, Gloria Elizabeth Guess. Gloria came to Mount Rainier from Washington DC where she taught elementary students music for more than 35 years. She believed that music was the key to children learning history, math, reading, and civics. She also believed that as a teacher, she had to practice what she taught and so she rolled up her sleeves and became active in her beloved Mount Rainier. Gloria was an active participant in “We Can 2” a strong community activity group that began the initial work to get Bass to be a good cooperate citizen. With her orange hat friends and members, she walked the streets of the downtown area, and Kaywood to let the world know that Mount Rainier was not the place to be to run drugs, prostitution, or any other criminal activity.

I will miss Gloria, but I believe those who walked shoulder to shoulder with her to clean up Mount Rainier will also miss her. Bon Voyage Gloria, thanks for all the hard work.

Trees Trees Trees

It seems that Mother Nature has not been too kind to us recently with our trees. Many of them are dead, dying or in serious disrepair. Luther Smith, Public Works Director, and, I have surveyed the City making a list of all the dead trees and broken branches. Some of the work to remove the dead trees and branches was started a few weeks ago. It will be a long process, but we will get the trees and branches down on public right a way.

NOW, that brings us to private property. There are a number of dead trees on private property throughout the City. According to our City Codes, property owners are required to remove their dead trees in a timely manner. This Code is a safety code and is there to protect residents, not just the homeowners, but neighbors whose house might be hit by a falling tree in a storm or the tree might land on a car, and God forbid that accidently someone is hit by a falling tree or branch that could have been avoided.

Mayor and Council Recess

At the last meeting in June, the Mayor and Council voted to recess July (work sessions only) and August with special meetings as needed. We held a number of special meetings to address issues about the Bass property; community development block grant (CDBG) programs, and to host a public hearing on the Bass property.

If you have not already heard, the City has agreed to purchase the Bass property (consisting of several properties) for a purchase price of $954, 000. A $50,000 good faith deposit was made this week following the signing of the contract to purchase. We expect to go to settlement within the next 90 days. Various sources of financing are under consideration for this purchase. Rest assured, the City’s coffers are not being drained, and every effort will be made to generate some revenue from the property as we seek to revitalize that area.

You may not know how the City manages to get much of its streets, curbs and gutters work done throughout the year. Well the work is performed through grants from Housing and Urban Development (HUD) via our County government through CDBG grants. Each year for the past several years, Mount Rainier received $100,000 for streets, curbs and gutter work. Last year many of the municipalities (including Mount Rainier) did not receive CDBG funding from the County. Yet, the County’s allocation from HUD is based on its population as well as its needs (poverty, low income, etc.), and most of the inner beltway communities comprise the largest eligibility group and are found in municipalities. To participate in these funds under the County, the County requires a cooperation agreement from each municipality agreeing to participate, and to relinquish any say in how the funds are allocated. Because of this, the County has sole authority to distribute the funds, as it deems appropriate. Prince George’s County Municipal Association (PGCMA) has asked for a greater say in this process and for its fair share of the funds awarded to the County. Our allocation for this fiscal year is again $100,000 even though we were promised the funding from the previous year. This will have a negative impact on our streets, curbs and gutter work. Some much needed street work will be delayed, and your patience much appreciated.

National Night Out (NNO)


Did you miss this wonderful event? Again this year, Chief Scott and his staff along with our Public Works Department and City Hall staff out did themselves with this festive occasion. Residents from Brentwood and Mount Rainier came together at Thomas Stone Elementary School to listen to music, eat hot dogs and hamburgers as they learned safety tips, and meet the many law enforcement officers that work to keep our community safe. Once again, we received $1,500 from Councilman Will Campos to share the cost of this activity. Funds were also received from Washington Gas Company, and a State grant on crime prevention. If you missed this event, thank to our Cable Department, you can catch it on Channel 71 (Comcast) and 21 (Verizon). There is also an “On Air with the Mayor segment that you might find interesting. Kudos and thanks to all City employees that worked so hard to make this event a success.

Gateway CDC

I am sure that we are all aware of the reorganizational efforts taking place at the Gateway CDC. I ask that you not rush to conclusions, but continue to get the facts. The Mayor and Council recently received a report from representatives of the Gateway CDC. Additional information has been requested, and members of the Council have vowed to continue the dialog. In addition, there are a few projects funded through the CDC that are in question that are being addressed by the Mayor and Council and will continue to be addressed until they are resolved. A meeting with the president of the Gateway CDC is scheduled and will be held before you receive this newsletter. An update on this meeting will be provided at a later date.

100 Year Celebration Committee Members Needed (2010 Committee)

If you live, work, or even pass through this great City and wish to be a part of this celebration, this is your invitation to be a part of the planning committee. To sign on to the Committee, email Ms. Janis Lomax jlomax@mountrainiermd.org or call her at 301-985-6585. She will take your name, address, telephone number, email address, and begin setting up the Committee. The first meeting of the committee will be Saturday, September 27 10:30am Mount Rainier City Hall. We need to begin planning a grand celebration for 2010! Be a part of the action. Join this committee today.

Historian/Writer NEEDED!

Mount Rainier needs its on historian to write our history from 1975 to present, and for becoming the depository for our history. This will be an awesome task for someone inclined to capture the history of our coming or age municipality. It will be well worth the time and energy to see our history come alive on paper. If you have the time and skills to take on this task or know someone who is, please contact Ms. Lomax or any member of the Mayor and Council with all necessary contact information so that we can discuss this project with you.

Volunteers Needed for first day of school to give a child a pencil

Again, this year, the school board and school CEO John Deasy are asking members of the community and elected official to come out and welcome our students back to school. This activity was started a few years ago to show community support for our schools. This year, Prince George's County Public Schools and Prince George's County (Livable Communities) have partnered in this effort to have volunteers welcome students, administrators and parents back to school. If you are able to give an hour of your time on Monday August 25, 2008, please join me at one of the following schools on Monday to meet, greet, and welcome our students back to our schools. Children from Mount Rainier generally attend:

Mount Rainier Elementary School, Ms. Janet Reid, principal (8:00am), 4011 32nd St., Mt Rainier, MD, 20712, 301-985-1810; (Contact: Malinda Miles – 302-237-3889)
Thomas Stone Elementary School, Ms. Helen Smith, principal (8:00am), 4500 34th St., Mt Rainier, MD 20712, 301-985-1890; (Contact: Rev. Deborah Johnson – 301-350-7975)
Hyattsville Middle School, Ms. Gail Golden, principal, (7:15am), 6001 42nd Ave, Hyattsville – 301-985-1760; (Contact: not confirmed)
Northwestern High School, Mr. Jerome Thomas, principal, (9:15am.), 7000 Adelphi Rd, Hyattsville, MD 20782, 301-985-1820 (Contact: not confirmed).

Pencils will be available to hand out to students as they arrive. Please come join in this effort. Can’t join us on Monday, you may drop off pencil to Mount Rainier City Hall. Thank you.

Don't Be Left Disconnected

Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) is encouraging families to be prepared for the national switch from analog to digital television. By February 17, 2009, the PGCPS cable television station aired on Comcast Channel 96 and Verizon Channel 38 will begin digital broadcasting. This conversion from analog to digital broadcasting is known nationally as the digital television (DTV) transition. Converter boxes are available, if you do not have Comcast Cable or Verizon.

Condolences to the following families on their loss: Delegate Doyle Niemann on the loss of his Mother, Mrs. Ruby Neder on the loss of her husband Donald Neder (also drove the Caller-A-Bus for the City); and to all of the other families in Mount Rainier that have lost a love one. No words can fill your void, but on behalf of the residents of Mount Rainier, I extend our sincere sympathy.

As always your comments, concerns, and responses are welcome. Contact me at mayormiles@malindamiles.com or post a comment on my blog.

Website that might be of interest

Mayor Malinda Miles website – www.malindamiles.com
Mayor Malinda Miles’ blog -- http://themayorsspot.blogspot.com
Chief Michael Scott’s blog: -- http://mrpdchief.blogspot.com
Historic Mount Rainier Maryland --- http://www.mountrainiermd.org
Mount Rainier Police Department -- http://www.mountrainiermd.org/government/mrpd/index.html
Bunker Hill Volunteer Fire and Rescue Company --- http://www.mrvfd.org
Mount Rainier Elementary School --- http://www.pgcps.org/~mrainier/
Thomas Stone Elementary School --- http://www.pgcps.org/~tstone/index.htm
Hyattsville Middle School --- http://www.pgcps.org/~hyattsms/
Northwestern High School --- http://www.pgcps.pg.k12.md.us/~nwest
Prince George’s County Municipal Association http://www.pgcma.com
Maryland Municipal League --- http://www.mdmunicipal.org
Margaret Boozer --- http://www.margaretboozer.com/reddirt5.html
Joe’s Movement Emporium -- http://www.joesmovement.org/
Friends of the Mount Rainier Library (FOL) --- http://www.mtrainierfol.org/
Gateway Community Development Corporation www.gateway-cdc.org
Mount Rainier Business Association (MRBA) www.mrbassociation.org
H & F Fine Arts -- www.hffinearts.com
Artmosphere Café -- www.artmospherecafe.com
Washington Metro Area Transit Service http://www.wmata.com/