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Bill seeks property tax relief

March 02, 2006|By TAMELA BAKER

ANNAPOLIS

A bill to cap taxes on property assessments at 5 percent rather than the current 10 percent sent some Washington County tax foes to the House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday to seek the committee's support.

"Property assessments rose 37 percent last year, and those whose properties were reassessed this year have seen a 58.6 percent increase," said Diane Eves of Hagerstown, one of the founders of the Alliance for Reasonable Taxation.

"There are a significant number of property owners who have hit the wall and cannot absorb these increases," she said.

At 10 percent, Washington County's cap is one of the highest in the state. By comparison, Anne Arundel's cap is 2 percent, Carroll County's is 7 percent, Prince George's is 3 percent and Garrett County's is 5 percent.

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The proposed legislation, sponsored by the Washington County Delegation, would apply after June 30, 2007.

Delegation Chairman Christopher B. Shank told the committee that assessments reached a record increase last year.

"We're starting to get the growth that has come over the mountain," he said. "Citizens with low to moderate incomes cannot afford the rapid increases."

Retiree Ray Snyder told the committee that "taxes are way out of reach now. Retirees are struggling to pay their taxes."

"I know of three families who have moved to Pennsylvania because Pennsylvania doesn't tax their pensions," said Ron Metz. "Most elderly people don't want to sell their houses," but they can no longer afford to pay their property taxes, he said.

Analysts in the Department of Legislative Services estimate lowering the cap would cost Washington County $3.1 million in fiscal year 2008 and would cost the municipalities in the county $523,673. By fiscal 2011, the revenue loss would be $11.7 million to the county and $1.8 million to the municipalities.

The committee also heard legislation Wednesday to allow the Washington County Commissioners to exempt certain commercial development from the excise tax as well as exempting existing businesses from paying the tax on expansion unless it doubles the size of the business facilities.

It also heard a bill to extend tax credits for creating new jobs to full-time contract positions lasting at least a year.

Del. LeRoy E. Myers, R-Washington/Allegany, told the committee the bills would give the county economic tools to compete with neighboring states for new businesses.

Del. Robert A. McKee, R-Washington, presented his bill to require assessment notices to include the property assessment worksheets. McKee said he sponsored the bill because after the last assessment on his property, he asked for the assessment worksheet and discovered that renovations made to a neighbor's home had been recorded on his property.

The committee has taken no action on the bills.

House bills 1065, 1407, 731 and 953

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