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County poised to lower assessment cap

March 18, 2006|By TARA REILLY

WASHINGTON COUNTY

The Washington County Commissioners could vote by the end of the month on lowering a cap on property assessments, Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said Friday.

For tax purposes, the cap, also known as the Homestead Tax Credit, limits how much property assessments can rise in a year.

Snook said it's likely the commissioners will vote on the cap at its March 28 meeting.

The vote would come weeks after the local delegation to the Maryland General Assembly drafted a bill that would reduce the county's cap from 10 percent to 5 percent, saying the commissioners failed to do it themselves.

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There's uncertainty, however, over the bill's future.

House Ways and Means Committee members were concerned earlier this week that the bill could set a precedent of the legislature imposing tax rates on local governments, Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington has said.

Shank said the best option would be for the commissioners to lower the cap themselves.

Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell said he was pretty certain the commissioners would lower the cap.

"Unless we've been living in outer space, I think we get the message," Wivell said.

The commissioners likely will stick with the delegation's proposed 5 percent cap, he said.

"If we can't live within 5 percent, something's wrong," Wivell said.

If approved, a lower cap would take effect in fiscal year 2008, which begins on July 1, 2007.

To provide tax relief for fiscal year 2007, Snook said the commissioners plan to issue rebates.

The county first needs authority from the state to do so.

State Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, filed emergency legislation that would allow the county to issue the rebates.

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