County of­fi­cials look to main­tain prop­erty tax rates

Elab­o­rate on pub­lic no­tice posted in news­pa­per

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By MICHAEL SYKES II msykes@somd­

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.

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