Tax­payer pokes hole in Ris­ing Sun’s ‘bril­liant’ tax plan

Cecil Whig - - REGIONAL - By JANE BELLMYER

jbellmyer@ce­cil­whig.com

— Jeff Jack­son is now pay­ing more for taxes on a tiny strip of prop­erty he owns than the 56-square-foot patch is worth.

That’s what Jack­son told the mayor and com­mis­sion­ers Tues­day night. Jack­son and Wil­liam Cather came to the Ris­ing Sun town meet­ing to ex­pose a prob­lem with the re­cently adopted change to util­ity billing that moved a por­tion of the monthly wa­ter, sewer and trash bill to the prop­erty tax bill.

These prop­er­ties in ques­tion are un­de­vel­oped.

“There’s no wa­ter or sewer service and no trash pickup ei­ther,” Jack­son said, adding he is pay­ing for ser­vices he does not re­ceive.

Cather doesn’t live in town, but his va­cant prop­er­ties are within town lim­its.

“If the town needs the money, they should have raised the taxes,” he said.

Town of­fi­cials re­clas­si­fied the por­tion of the wa­ter and sewer debt service and the cost of trash col­lec­tion and rolled it into the prop­erty tax bill. Also the prop­erty tax rate was raised — for the first

RIS­ING SUN

time in 20 years — from 40.6 cents per $100 of as­sessed value to 48 cents. How­ever, by merg­ing the debt service some prop­erty own­ers who item­ize will see the in­crease cost­ing them less than $1.

Com­mis­sioner Dave War­nick called the plan “bloody bril­liant.”

Cather dis­agreed, call­ing it “tax­a­tion with­out rep­re­sen­ta­tion.”

“I got on the IRS web­site. You can­not deduct this,” Cather said. “It’s a gray area open to in­ter­pre­ta­tion. If you do get au­dited you may need a tax at­tor­ney.”

Calvin Bo­nen­berger, town ad­min­is­tra­tor, as­sured Cather the ad­di­tional amount — av­er­ag­ing $380 per prop­erty — was de­ductible. Hav­ing had con­ver­sa­tions with var­i­ous sources, Bo­nen­berger said he was cer­tain that the de­duc­tion was ap­pli­ca­ble, not­ing Ris­ing Sun isn’t the only town in Ce­cil County tak­ing ad­van­tage of the pol­icy.

While Jack­son said he un­der­stood why the move was made, Cather saw the dam­age wait­ing on the hori­zon if own­ers of rental prop­er­ties pass the in­crease onto their ten­ants.

“The cen­ter of town is empty now,” he said. “You pass this onto the renters, what are they go­ing to do?”

Bo­nen­berger said renters would likely see no in­crease be­cause of the de­duc­tion prop­erty own­ers will re­al­ize on fed­eral tax re­turns. Those who do pass the cost onto ten­ants, those ten­ants will have a lower cost for wa­ter and sewer service, so the cost of the debt service would be the same as be­fore.

Com­mis­sioner Brian Leis­hear said the board would re­visit the res­o­lu­tion in light of the im­pact on un­de­vel­oped prop­er­ties.

Say­ing he had al­ready cut his check to go into the mail the next day, Cather asked how soon any ac­tion could be taken.

Mayor Travis Mar­ion told Cather to ex­pect some word at the next town meet­ing.

Mean­while, Bo­nen­berger of­fered to re­search for Jack­son on the pos­si­bil­ity of merg­ing his three parcels into one, which would lessen his tax bur­den.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY JANE BELLMYER

Jeff Jack­son told the Ris­ing Sun mayor and com­mis­sion­ers that the in­crease in prop­erty taxes cou­pled with the new pol­icy that rolls debt service and trash pick up onto the prop­erty tax bill re­sults in him pay­ing a tax bill that the three times what one of his parcels is worth.

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