County officials look to maintain property tax rates
Elaborate on public notice posted in newspaper
It is budget season in Charles County and the board of commissioners are making it clear that they are not raising taxes by any means for any projects this year.
David Eicholtz, the director of fiscal and administrative management for the county, said his office has received calls from citizens over the last week after the county issued a notice in last Friday’s issue of the Maryland Independent concerning the county’s tax rate.
There is confusion, Eicholtz said, about the county raising its tax rate. However, he said, it would remain the same as it has been over the last fiscal year.
The proposed general fund operating budget for the county is currently set at $375,292,600 — which is just under $10 million from last year’s adopted budget. In this proposed budget, Eicholtz said, no property taxes have been raised.
Because of the state’s con-
stant yield tax rate, which is a law requiring the county to give public notice and hold public hearings on any tax rate increase over what the county’s current yield tax rate is, the county had to issue public notice of a tax increase despite their intention to keep the property tax rate the same.
“To generate the same amount of tax revenue from year to year, the county should increase, or more typically, decrease their property tax rate in order to generate the same revenue,” Eicholtz said.
The current yield tax rate for the county is $1.205 per every $100. To maintain property tax revenues, the county would need to decrease that rate to $1.181 per every $100. In a notice in last Friday’s Maryland Independent, the county issued a statement saying they are considering maintaining that $1.205 figure.
But because the county’s real property assessable base is projected to rise by 2 percent in the next fiscal year, the county is considering leaving the current yield tax rate where it stands and allowing real property tax revenues to increase by 2 percent as well.
Eicholtz said the state has allowed the county to declare they are considering not reducing the tax rate and leaving it as it stood for the previous two fiscal years at $1.205, which would be above the yield tax rate necessary to offset increasing tax assessments.
Commissioner Ken Robinson (D) said every year when the county makes its tax rate notice in the newspaper, “it generates a lot of confusion on the part of our citizens.”
“I’m wondering if we should be looking toward next year to make a change in the language that we should use,” Robinson said. “I’m throwing that out there.”
Eicholtz said the constant yield tax rate is very confusing, but is also a requirement by state law. The state, in order to maintain transparency, requires counties to let their citizens know what the yield tax rate is and what their proposed tax rate is.
“I understand why the state asks counties to do it,” Eicholtz said.
The county had to file the notice in the Maryland Independent as an increase because of state required language, but the tax rate that has been used over the last two years is being proposed to be maintained.
In the county’s proposed budget presented at Tuesday’s commis- sioners meeting, the county would receive $211,639,000 in property taxes during fiscal year 2017 — an increase of just over $6 million from the previous fiscal year.
Robinson and Commissioners’ President Peter Murphy (D) have both said in the past that the commissioners have no interest in raising taxes on citizens and are not looking to generate revenues for the county’s capital or operating budgets by tax rate increases.
The county will hold a public hearing on the real property tax rate on April 19 at 7 p.m. in the Charles County Government Building.