Caroline Tax differential rate freeze proposed
PRESTON — The Caroline County commissioners are considering keeping the tax break it gives to residents of the county’s five largest towns at the same rate in Fiscal Year 2019 as in the current year.
Though the formula developed by the county would have provided a larger rate cut for residents of Denton and Federalsburg in FY19 — 1 and 2 cents more, respectively — at a meeting with town officials Tuesday, March 13, commissioners proposed maintaining this year’s rate instead.
The move would mean about $67,000 more in collected property tax revenue for the county, said President Larry Porter.
“You see the hole we’re in, and it just got bigger tonight,” Porter said, referring to the sheriff’s office’s request at an earlier budget hearing for $252,000 to fund longevity pay for deputies.
Before that request, the commissioners already had about a $355,000 gap to close between funding requests and expected revenues in FY19.
The municipal tax differential is intended to avoid making town taxpayers pay for the same services twice, specifically police protection.
Denton, Federalsburg, Greensboro and Ridgely all have town police departments, funded by taxpayers, while Preston uses tax revenue to pay for extra coverage from the Caroline County Sheriff’s Office.
If the commissioners do maintain the tax differential rate, Denton, Greensboro and Ridgely residents will receive 7 cents off their county property tax rate; Federalsburg residents 9 cents; and Preston residents 3 cents.
County Administrator Ken Decker said the formula used to calculate the rate takes the number of sworn deputies in the sheriff’s office and divides that by the population of the unincorporated parts of the county.
Porter said by adding four more deputies over the past few years, the county has shot itself in the foot in regards to the tax differential.
“We pay for training and salaries for the new deputies, and the number affects the formula in the towns’ favor,” Porter said.
Town officials were agreeable to the proposed rate.
“The county’s not legally obligated to (provide any tax differential), so we appreciate the offset we’re getting,” said Denton Councilmember Dallas Lister.
Porter said the meeting March 13 was not to set the rate; that would not be done until May. He encouraged the officials in attendance to discuss it with their fellow councilmembers.