County real prop­erty taxes will see no in­crease again

Word­ing of ad was mis­lead­ing, of­fi­cials say

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By MICHAEL SYKES II msykes@somd­news.com

Ev­ery year dur­ing bud­get sea­son, the big ques­tion for ci­ti­zens in Charles County sur­rounds the pos­si­bil­ity of whether the com­mis­sion­ers will raise taxes.

Ev­ery year, the county is legally re­quired to put an ad­ver­tise­ment in the Mary­land In­de­pen­dent ob­serv­ing the state’s cal­cu­la­tion of what the county’s con­stant yield tax rate should be and what the rate cur­rently is.

The county’s real prop­erty tax rate for the last four years has been $1.205 per $100, but as­sess­ments have con­tin­ued to rise in the county. This year, on av­er­age, prop­erty as­sess­ments are ris­ing 2.4 per­cent but the Charles County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers is propos­ing that the tax rate re­main the same.

Ac­cord­ing to the

county’s ad in the Fri­day, April 21, edi­tion of The Mary­land In­de­pen­dent, the state no­ti­fied the county could lower the tax rate to $1.17 per $100 and main­tain the same prop­erty tax rev­enues from last year.

“The ad in the pa­per said that our tax rate is a $1.20,” David Ei­choltz, the county’s di­rec­tor of fis­cal and ad­min­is­tra­tive man­age­ment, said. “But be­cause the as­sess­ment value of ev­ery­body’s prop­erty in the county in­creased by 2.4 per­cent, the county should lower their tax rate to 1.17.”

The county would get a 2.4 per­cent in­crease in rev­enue from prop­erty taxes if the rate re­mains the same, Ei­choltz said. The county will hold a pub­lic hear­ing to gauge the opin­ions of the pub­lic on the is­sue on May 9, ac­cord­ing to the ad.

The county is cur­rently pro­ject­ing $387.8 mil­lion in base­line rev­enues for Fis­cal Year 2018. Last year, the county re­ceived about $211 mil­lion in prop­erty taxes. But this year, with the as­sess­ment in­creased at 2.4 per­cent on av­er­age, the county is pro­ject­ing a $7 mil­lion in­crease to about $218.8 mil­lion.

With the way the ad is worded, Ei­choltz said, it is easy for ci­ti­zens to be­lieve the county’s prop­erty taxes are in­creas­ing from $1.17 per $100 to $1.20. How­ever, he said, that is not the case de­spite the no­tice to the state.

The ad says “The County Com­mis­sion­ers of Charles County pro­poses to in­crease real prop­erty taxes” and ex­plains that as­sess­ments around the county are, on av­er­age, in­creas­ing by 2.4 per­cent. Ei­choltz said, how­ever, ci­ti­zens will pay the same amount.

If a cit­i­zen’s as­sessed prop­erty value in­creased more than 2.4 per­cent, he said, the cit­i­zen will pay more in taxes. If the cit­i­zen’s as­sessed prop­erty value de­creased, he said, that cit­i­zen will pay less in taxes.

“That per­son would pay the ex­act same amount as they did in FY 18 as they did in FY 17,” Ei­choltz said.

Through­out their ten­ure, the cur­rent Charles County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers un­der Com­mis­sion­ers’ Pres­i­dent Peter Mur­phy (D) have made it a goal not to in­crease taxes on ci­ti­zens dur­ing their time in of­fice.

Mur­phy re­it­er­ated as much on the sub­ject of the county’s re­quire­ment to send no­ti­fi­ca­tion of a tax in­crease in the pa­per.

“I know it can be very con­fus­ing and when you read the way it has to be printed it can be very mis­lead­ing. These two are very dis­tinct def­i­ni­tions,” Mur­phy said.

The county will hold a pub­lic hear­ing on the tax rate at 6:30 p.m. May 9 at the Charles County Gov­ern­ment build­ing.

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