Tax changes may as­suage ag­grieved R.S. prop­erty own­ers

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - By JANE BELLMYER

jbellmyer@ce­cil­whig.com

— The town board plans to in­tro­duce a res­o­lu­tion in the com­ing weeks that would re­vise the way the town charges prop­er­ties for debt ser­vices.

That res­o­lu­tion could mean that some tax­pay­ers who own un­de­vel­oped lots could see re­funds of $384.

“At the next meet­ing, we will in­tro­duce a res­o­lu­tion to add all the de­fined prop­er­ties with­out a build­able base,” said Com­mis­sioner Dave War­nick, re­fer­ring to 30 tiny pieces of land in town whose own­ers were billed un­der the new tax plan en­acted in June.

As part of that plan, Ris­ing Sun of­fi­cials raised the prop­erty tax rate with the new bud­get year from 40.6 to 48 cents per $100 of as­sessed value. Oth­er­wise, to get the needed rev­enue, the town would have been forced to raise prop­erty taxes as much as 62 per­cent, War­nick said.

To help prop­erty own­ers ab­sorb the in­crease, the mayor and com­mis­sion­ers voted to con­vert each tax­payer’s share of the debt

RIS­ING SUN

ser­vice to the prop­erty tax bill. The cost of trash pickup was also re­de­fined as debt ser­vice. The re­sult was ex­pected to al­low the $384 ad­di­tional cost to be de­ducted from the in­come tax obli­ga­tion.

How­ever, that change also meant that as many as 30 in­ci­den­tal prop­er­ties in Ris­ing Sun — pre­dom­i­nantly in the cen­ter of town or at­tached to agri­cul­tural land on the out­skirts — were be­ing billed. It’s land that War­nick said is not el­i­gi­ble for development be­cause of its size.

“For ex­am­ple, one small par­cel on North Queen Street is in the mid­dle of a drive­way,” War­nick said Wed­nes­day. “It’s 165 square feet. We’re go­ing to agree that 165 square feet can’t be de­vel­oped.”

“It’s the re­sult of old sur­vey meth­ods and legacy lot lines,” he added. “It’s an ar­ti­fact of our his­tory.”

War­nick has spent hours pour­ing over GIS and town zon­ing maps to iden­tify all these prop­er­ties and res­cue the own­ers from the tax. He’s found about 30 of these so-called “spi­der prop­er­ties,” most of which will be ex­cused from the flat tax as­sess­ment.

“We re­ally in­tended for this one house to have a sin­gle as­sess­ment of $384,” War­nick said.

War­nick said if one of these tiny parcels is large enough to sup­port fu­ture development — in­clud­ing the proper square footage to al­low for set­backs — it would likely be charged.

“If it were a big enough lot to be built on it’s an in­vest­ment,” War­nick said.

How­ever, most are not even large enough to al­low for a shed, he noted. Only tracts el­i­gi­ble for a pri­mary struc­ture should be get­ting the debt ser­vice bill, he said.

At re­cent town meet­ings, own­ers who re­ceived tax bills for the mi­cro-parcels sought re­lief. Jeff Jackson’s 56-square-foot patch was be­ing taxed more than it was worth he told of­fi­cials in July. It’s one of sev­eral pieces he owns.

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

“Trash pickup is now funded by the real es­tate as­sess­ment re­gard­less of the size of the prop­erty. That means com­mer­cial is pay­ing it even though they get noth­ing from it,” War­nick said. “There’s all kinds of ser­vices that our taxes pay for that we may not use.”

So what is the debt ser­vice pay­ing for? War­nick listed the mort­gage for town hall among the debts.

“Debt ser­vice does in­clude the wa­ter tower and some lagoon re­pairs from years ago. Street repaving side­walks and ve­hi­cle loans are rolled in too,” he said.

War­nick said the town is no longer pur­su­ing the idea of com­bin­ing these spi­der prop­er­ties into the larger tract, cit­ing the cost. To have the land sur­vey con­ducted and the deed changed could cost more than $2,000 for the prop­erty owner.

Mean­while, many of those own­ers iden­ti­fied who have al­ready paid some or all of their tax bill can get the debt ser­vice por­tion re­funded, War­nick said.

“Mr. Jackson, once the res­o­lu­tion is passed, he will get a re­im­burse­ment for a por­tion of it,” War­nick said.

MAP COUR­TESY OF CE­CIL COUNTY

The tri­an­gle seen in this GIS map shows one of the 30 parcels found in Ris­ing Sun, which are too small to have any­thing built on them. The com­mis­sion­ers plan to in­tro­duce a res­o­lu­tion later this month which will ex­cuse the prop­er­ties from the new flat tax for debt ser­vice.

WAR­NICK

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