Council aims to keep tax rate level

May 12, 2006|by ANDREW SCHOTZ


Hagerstown City Council members interviewed Thursday said they support keeping the city's property tax rate the same for next year's budget.

However, because of rising property values, even at the current rate, taxes still would go up, Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said.

A public hearing on the tax rate for the proposed 2006-07 city budget will be Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the City Hall council chamber on the second floor.


An ad for the public hearing notes that the city could reduce the tax rate. But, Metzner said, no one on the council has expressed interest in that.

Metzner is the only council member who has said he would raise taxes, but only to hire new fire and police department employees and to increase employees' salaries, as a wage study recommended.

Maryland municipalities must give notice and hold public meetings if they consider setting a tax rate higher than the constant yield tax rate, according to the state's Department of Assessments and Taxation.

If property values rise, taxes go up even if the tax rate stays the same. To keep revenue at the same level, a government body must lower the tax rate to what is known as the constant yield rate.

Hagerstown's current real property tax rate is 79.8 cents per $100 of assessed value, according to the city.

At that rate, property tax revenue would rise 8.5 percent, or $1.2 million, next year.

The constant yield rate, which would keep property tax revenue the same next year, is 73.5 cents per $100 of assessed value, according to the city.

City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman's proposed 2006-07 budget is $134.4 million. It would not raise the tax rate.

But two supplemental plans - hiring more fire and police department employees and boosting the salaries of current employees that the wage study considers underpaid - would require tax increases.

Councilwoman Penny M. Nigh and Councilwoman Alesia D. Parson-McBean said they don't want to raise the tax rate. During recent meetings, Councilwoman Kelly S. Cromer and Councilman Kristin B. Aleshire have said the same thing.

A majority of the council has committed to hiring 19 fire department employees over two years, starting with 10 in 2006-07.

The council appears more divided over the wage study, which would require the city spending close to $5 million over three years.

Zimmerman said Thursday that the proposed budget includes $1 million for 3 percent raises and step increases, which are not connected to the study.

Metzner and Nigh said Thursday they support funding the first year of the wage increases in 2006-07.

Parson-McBean only would say that the council is working on a plan that is fair for everyone.

Cromer recently has criticized the methodology of the wage study, while Aleshire has said he doesn't support the study's recommended increases.

Public hearing

What: The Hagerstown City Council will hold a public hearing on the tax rate for the proposed 2006-07 city budget.

When: Tuesday, 7 p.m.

Where: City Hall council chamber

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