Com­mis­sion­ers need to con­sider first time home buy­ers in trans­fer tax

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum -

The Charles County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers are once again con­sid­er­ing leg­is­la­tion re­gard­ing the lo­cal Real Es­tate Trans­fer Tax (“trans­fer tax”). Last year dur­ing the only pub­lic hear­ing on this im­por­tant pub­lic mat­ter, the cit­i­zens of Charles County were promised an ex­emp­tion from the trans­fer tax for “first time home buy­ers.” Un­for­tu­nately, the ex­pe­dited pub­lic process, which failed to in­clude any open com­ment pe­riod, led to ill-con­ceived and poorly worded leg­is­la­tion which in­cluded, among other er­rors, an il­le­gal ex­emp­tion. In a law­suit brought by a tax­payer and cit­i­zen, a court found the county com­mis­sion­ers ex­ceeded their au­thor­ity by cre­at­ing an ex­emp­tion that im­prop­erly ex­cluded in­di­vid­u­als that, per state law, should have been in­cluded and did not in­clude the full ex­emp­tion in­tended by state law. As re­cently as Oc­to­ber of last year, a ma­jor­ity of the com­mis­sion­ers made as­ser­tions that they would re­visit the “first time home buyer” ex­emp­tion dur­ing the next bud­get cy­cle.

The county com­mis­sion­ers are now con­sid­er­ing an amend­ment to the trans­fer tax which will al­low the com­mis­sion­ers to rec­og­nize ad­di­tional rev­enue from the tax but have re­neged on their prom­ise to amend the law and en­act an ex­emp­tion for the “first time home buyer.” The fail­ure to in­clude such an ex­emp­tion is a de­fault on the com­mis­sion­ers’ prom­ise to home buy­ers through­out Charles County. It is im­por­tant to note the county com­mis­sion­ers orig­i­nally en­acted the trans­fer tax to bridge an al­leged bud­get short­fall of $5 mil­lion. Ac­cord­ing to an ar­ti­cle in the Mary­land In­de­pen­dent in Fe­bru­ary of this year, the county, in re­al­ity, is ex­pect­ing to end the year with a net gain of $8.9 mil­lion dol­lars. With such good news, now is the time for the com­mis­sion­ers to keep their prom­ise.

Home buy­ers and sell­ers should not have to shoul­der the heavy bur­den of prop­erty taxes, in­creased as­sess­ments, and now an ad­di­tional tax for ev­ery­one at the point of sale. The county com­mis­sion­ers are hold­ing a pub­lic hear­ing on Tues­day, May 10, at 6 p.m., at which the pub­lic will have a chance to voice their con­cerns. We strongly en­cour­age res­i­dents of Charles County to at­tend and of­fer tes­ti­mony against the trans­fer tax un­less it in­cludes an ex­emp­tion for the “first time home buyer.” Home own­er­ship is the Amer­i­can dream and the prom­ise we make to our chil­dren. We en­cour­age res­i­dents to write and/ or call com­mis­sion­ers Peter Mur­phy, Ken Robin­son, Amanda Stewart, De­bra Davis, and Bobby Rucci to re­mind them to keep their prom­ise so that we may keep our prom­ise to our chil­dren.

Let’s hold our elected of­fi­cials re­spon­si­ble and hold them to their prom­ises.

Steve Paul, Hugh­esville The writer is the pres­i­dent of the South­ern Mary­land As­so­ci­a­tion of Real­tors.

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