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Mayor, council will seek better tax setoff

November 15, 2000

Mayor, council will seek better tax setoff



By DAN KULIN / Staff Writer


Hagerstown's Mayor and City Council agreed Tuesday to negotiate with the Washington County Commissioners for a better tax setoff deal for the city and to ask state legislators for help if negotiations don't work.

The mayor and council are considering asking the Washington County delegation to the Maryland General Assembly to change the law so the County Commissioners would be forced to give the city a tax setoff that would be determined by an established formula.

The commissioners currently are under no legal obligation to give the city a tax setoff but they do so under a 1986 agreement.

City elected officials describe the difference as being either a "may" or a "shall" county. The county is a "may" county.

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Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said if Washington County were a "shall" county, the commissioners would have to come up with a "fair and reasonable" tax setoff agreement.

The current method for determining the city's tax setoff from the county includes caps on the amount of money the city can receive. Metzner said the caps are arbitrary, and he had asked city attorneys to look into whether those caps are legal.

John Urner, a city attorney, said the caps are legal.

The mayor and council decided Tuesday to establish a committee to negotiate the tax setoff issue with the commissioners. They chose Councilmen William M. Breichner and Alfred W. Boyer to be on the committee.

The mayor and council are expected to discuss the issue with the County Commissioners during a joint meeting next week.

For years, city elected officials have complained about the caps on the amount of money the city can receive in the tax setoff.

The tax setoff, also sometimes called a tax rebate of tax differential, is intended to represent the savings realized by the county because the city provided services such as police protection to county residents living in the city.

The tax setoff is calculated based on population, assessable tax base, and taxable income, but there are caps on how much the city can receive in the setoff.

For the current fiscal year, the city's tax setoff from the Washington County government is $894,294.

Al Martin, city finance director, said without the limits the city would have received an additional $734,358 from the county this year.

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