Rising Sun to revisit debt service tax following complaints
— After residents brought a tax glitch to the town’s attention last month, the mayor and commissioners on Tuesday hinted at giving refunds and assistance to those who own undeveloped lots.
Last month, the town announced that about half of the monthly utility bill property owners were receiving would be re-classified as debt service tax and moved to the property tax bill along with the cost of trash pick-up. On average, that would raise the property tax bill about $384. The monthly bill would then only cover the cost of actual water and sewer usage.
However, at the July 12 meeting, the board heard from two men whose vacant properties were being taxed for unused services. William Cather was back before the board Tuesday night to reiterate his displeasure.
“My property was annexed into town in 1979. It has no water and no sewer,” Cather said.
He added that, as he understands the town charter, he should not be paying for water and sewer for the vacant lots.
“What you’ve done is wrong,” he said. “You can’t tax someone for a service they are not receiving.”
In June, Rising Sun passed a fiscal 2017 budget that raised the property tax rate for the first time in 20 years. The rate increased from 40.6 cents to 48 cents per $100 of assessed value. With the adjusted rate the town would get a revenue increase of more than
$138,000. By redefining the debt service as a tax, the board said property owners could increase their deductions and some would actually see the increase even out.
Tax bills, if paid by July 31, are discounted 2 percent. Rising Sun is one of a few Cecil County towns still offering the discount.
“My taxes have been paid,” Cather said. “You owe me $384 and some change.”
Bob Knutsen said the more than $2,000 he owes the town won’t be paid off in time for the discount.
“I don’t receive anything from the town except the tax bill,” he said, adding he can’t afford to pay the bill in full, even with the discount.
Mike and Joan Kirchner, like Cather, live on Stevens Road. While their house is just outside town borders, their adjoining property is inside the corporate limits. Some of that land is unable to be developed, Mike reminded the board.
“This is the field at the creek,” he said. “If it makes sense, we’ll unannex the swamp.”
Cather said his property, without town water or sewer, cannot be developed.
“The land doesn’t perc,” he said, adding a connection to town utilities would be required.
Calvin Bonenberger, town administrator, said as many as 30 vacant properties could be identified. One, owned by Jeff Jackson, is just 56 square feet.
“The town was not aware all these little properties existed,” Bonenberger said.
Now town leaders are looking for ways to help owners of multiple adjoining lots by combining them into one tract. In this way, there would be only one property taxed.
“We love living here,” Michael Kirchner said. “We just ask you to do the right thing.”
Mike and Joan Kirchner explain how the vacant parcels they own — located in Rising Sun town limits — can never be developed but are still being charged for water and sewer.
Bob Knutsen told the town that the change in how the town collects debt service for water and sewer means he owes more than $2,000 for services he does not receive.