Ris­ing Sun to re­visit debt ser­vice tax fol­low­ing com­plaints

Cecil Whig - - LOCAL - By JANE BELLMYER

jbellmyer@ce­cil­whig.com

— 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

RIS­ING SUN

$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.”

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY JANE BELLMYER

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.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY JANE BELLMYER

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.

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