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Despite steady tax rate, tax bills may be higher

April 22, 1999|By DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

Even if Hagerstown and Washington County tax rates stay the same as proposed, most residents will face higher property tax bills next year.

This is because the assessed value of most residential property has increased according to the Maryland Department of Assessments. The amount of property taxes owed is based on that assessed value, which is determined by the state.

City and county finance officials said the impact of the assessments will vary widely among residents.

The net result is that for every $1,000 increase to a resident's estimated property value, the county property tax would increase $9.24, County Budget and Finance Director Debra Bastian said.

Hagerstown residents would owe an additional $6.96 in city property taxes for every $1,000 increase in the estimated value of their property, City Finance Director Al Martin said.

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Due to the increases in property assessments, revenue from property taxes in Washington County will increase by $1.9 million and by $120,000 in Hagerstown, if the tax rates are unchanged, according to separate statements from the city and county.

To ensure that taxpayers do not see an increase in the taxes they owe, the city and county would have to lower their tax rates, according to the statements.

Ira Kauffman, a Hagerstown resident and member of the City Council from 1977 to 1981, said the increase in his assessment is going to increase his city and county tax bills by more than $40 next year.

"Everybody knows the assessment is a backhanded way to raise taxes," Kauffman said.

City Councilman William M. Breichner said it's misleading to say taxes are being raised.

Breichner said the tax rate is the real measure of a tax increase.

"Sure we're making more money, but it's an inflationary measure," Breichner said.

He said that in theory the increased value of an individual resident's property is primarily tied to inflation, and offsets the inflationary increase in the cost of running the city government.

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