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High taxes on the Verizon

January 16, 2005|by JULIE E. GREENE

julieg@herald-mail.com

Think your property taxes are expensive?

City, county and state property taxes on the typical Hagerstown home this year are estimated to be approximately $3,150 based on the average selling price of $168,000 last year, said Tim O'Rourke, supervisor of assessments for the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation's Washington County office.

But, you'd have to multiply that by more than 100 just to get close to what Washington County's 10th highest corporate taxpayer bill was last fiscal year.

Of course, companies usually make a lot more money than families.

For the second consecutive fiscal year, Verizon-Maryland topped the list of the top 10 taxpayers in Washington County.

The list basically was the same as the previous fiscal year except for a property that changed hands and some shuffling among the rankings.

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Verizon-Maryland had $2,341,815 in personal property taxes in Hagerstown and Washington County for the fiscal year that began July 1, 2003, and ended June 30, 2004, according to city and county treasurers.

None of Verizon's taxes were for real estate.

Verizon's personal property tax includes transmission lines, remote terminals, computers and office equipment, spokeswoman Sandra Arnette said.

Coming in second was Potomac Edison Company - known as Allegheny Energy Inc., but having some tax records listed under Potomac Edison. Potomac Edison had $1,941,315 in real estate and personal property taxes in Washington County and none in the city.

The top 10 tax list was compiled using real estate and personal property taxes in Washington County and, when applicable, in Hagerstown.

Each year, the city and county treasurers' offices prepare separate lists of their top taxpayers based on total assessments. The lists are not complete because they do not include local families with large land holdings that are listed under different names and corporations.

The lists also do not account for companies that list properties under multiple names. This includes Wal-Mart.

While Bowman Group ranks ninth on the list, the $400,141 in county real estate and personal property taxes do not represent all of the company's holdings. Bowman Group lists some of its properties under the names of its subsidiaries.

The 10th spot is a newcomer, but represents the same property - 16500 Hunters Green Parkway - that was listed 10th in the previous year's list.

Jerome L. Rappaport Jr. is president of New Boston Fund, which bought the former TruServ distribution center in July 2003. In last year's list, the property was listed under the name Tru Serv 1998 Trust.

Home Depot's Your Other Warehouse leases the 824,000-square-foot building for use as a distribution center, according to New Boston Fund's public relations firm, PAN Communications Inc. The building is part of a 70-acre parcel.

Crown American Acquisition ranked seventh on the list for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2004. The property, Valley Mall, was sold to Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust on Nov. 20, 2003, when PREIT merged with Crown American Realty Trust, Valley Mall Marketing Director Julie Rohm said.

The property Crown American would have paid taxes on would include the mall, with the exception of Hecht's and Sears; the Toys 'R Us strip shopping center; and some outparcels such as Shoney's Restaurant, Firestone, M&T Bank's drive-through and Farmers & Merchants Bank and Trust's drive-through, Rohm said.

The mall's parent company does not own all of the outparcels around the mall or the property that anchor stores Sears and Hecht's use, Rohm said.

The tax amounts for the list do not necessarily represent the amount of taxes paid because some companies had tax credits and there is a 1/2 percent discount if taxes are paid by July 31, according to the treasurers' offices.

According to the county treasurer's office, Staples of Maryland LLC had $212,241 in enterprise zone tax credits and New Boston Fund had $243,363 in enterprise zone tax credits.

The Staples Distribution Center at 11540 Hopewell Road and Home Depot's Your Other Warehouse both were in an enterprise zone that expired at the end of 2001, according to Cassandra Latimer, marketing specialist with the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission.

Companies that were approved for enterprise zone tax credits prior to the zone's expiration can finish out their credits, Latimer said.

In enterprise zones, economic incentives are available to new and existing businesses that expand either with capital investments or job creation, according to a Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission booklet on enterprise zones.

Washington Real Estate Investment Trust, which owns much of the Centre at Hagerstown, moved up a notch in the rankings to third with $707,741 in city and county taxes. The trust does not own the land for each store, such as Wal-Mart and Home Depot, according to property records.

254 Hagerstown LLC, which pays taxes on the property north of Hagerstown that Citicorp uses, dropped two notches in the ranking because of depreciation on personal property, County Treasurer Todd Hershey said.

Staples also dropped a ranking due to depreciated personal property.

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