Whoops?

Montgomery County’s municipalities get a portion (around 17%) of the tax proceeds that would otherwise go to the county, as municipalities often pay for some functions that duplicate county services, such as police, trash collection, and the like. Hence the never ending fights over “tax duplication” between municipalities like Takoma Park and the county.

The state – through the Comptroller – collects all taxes in Maryland, and then pays out to the counties and towns as appropriate. You’d think it would be a simple matter to figure out who lives in a municipality, and pay out the correct amounts.

You’d be wrong. Comptroller Peter Franchot yesterday acknowledged that for several years his office has paid some municipalities more than they were entitled to, as some addresses were incorrectly coded as municipal when they weren’t.

Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot is investigating evidence that the state shortchanged Montgomery County of millions of dollars in local income tax revenue when it mistakenly sent the money to county municipalities instead.

Andrew Friedson, a spokesman for Franchot (D), declined Tuesday to specify an amount or how the county might receive payments that are due. County officials estimate a loss of $12 million to $15 million as a result of the misdirected money.

Friedson said the office will hire an outside consultant to determine exactly how much money was involved and how the mistake happened.

“Essentially we made a mistake and we’re admitting and recognizing the mistake,” Friedson said. He added that although the office is aware of issues only in Montgomery, the outside review will look at all jurisdictions “as a matter of fairness.”

$12-15 million, with all due respect to alcohol privatization advocates, is a lot of money. And why does the Comptroller need a consultant to help it fix an obvious problem? Sit down with a map, correct the errors, done. Problem solved.

Another question. Apparently this all came to light when Chevy Chase Mayor Al Lang convened a work group to improve revenue forecasting.

“I was always concerned we didn’t understand the dollars coming in,” Lang said.

He said the group noticed that in 2010, the number of town households in the comptroller’s records jumped from 1,500 to 2,700. When the town asked the office to help verify the addresses, officials said they could not, Lang said.

The tax base of the town nearly doubled in one year – and nobody in Chevy Chase noticed? That is an issue more in need of investigation than the accounting mistakes by the Comptroller’s office.

Veep To California

No big surprise here.

HBO announced on Thursday that it will move the production of “Veep,” its political comedy starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus, out of Maryland to Southern California.

“After four years and a long deliberation we have decided to move the production of Veep to Los Angeles,” said Cecile Cross-Plummer, an HBO spokesman, in a statement. “Maryland has been home to many vital HBO projects, from The Corner to The Wire to Game Change, and the support has always been extraordinary. The producers and HBO would like to thank Maryland for making the last four seasons of Veep such a success. We look forward to returning with another production in the future.”

The question I’ve never really seen a good answer to – despite all the back and forth on this issue – is whether the tax credits granted to HBO and others are sufficiently offset by revenues from increased employment and opportunities for local businesses so as to make the credits worthwhile. So I can’t say whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. Egowise, it hurts – it’s fun to have TV shows filmed in locations I sometimes recognize. But policywise, it remains an open question.