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Hagerstown council votes to cut property tax

May 27, 2008|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN -- Going against the advice of the city's finance director, the Hagerstown City Council on Tuesday voted 3-2 to decrease the property tax rate by one cent per every $100 of the assessed value of a home.

The tax decrease was introduced by Councilman Lewis C. Metzner about an hour before the council was to vote to maintain the property tax rate at 79.8 cents for Fiscal Year 2008-09.

Beginning July 1, the rate will be 78.8 cents per every $100 of the assessed value of a home.

City Finance Director Alfred Martin said the rate reduction will save the owner of a $100,000 home about $10 a year, but it will cost the city roughly $300,000 in revenue.

The city will be able to survive the tax cut for the first year, but Martin said he was concerned the council's decision would reduce the city's revenue at a time when Hagerstown officials are trying to pay for higher gas prices and other rising expenses.

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"I'm not going to go on record and recommend (the tax decrease)," Martin said. "I'm concerned we're digging ourselves a $300,000 hole."

Metzner, Councilwoman Alesia Parson-McBean and Councilman Martin E. Brubaker voted for the tax decrease.

Brubaker and Metzner said the city can afford to give taxpayers a break, citing a $7 million balance in the Reserve Fund as the reason.

The Reserve Fund is used, in part, to pay for unforeseen expenses, Martin said. Municipalities also use reserve fund balances as leverage to borrow money.

Brubaker said the balance in the Reserve Fund could dip to about $4 million before the city's ability to borrow money would suffer. In addition, the tax decrease is to last for only one year, which will ensure that the Reserve Fund balance doesn't get too low, he said.

"I think the taxpayers need a little bit back," Brubaker said.

Voting against the tax decrease were Councilwomen Kelly S. Cromer and Penny M. Nigh.

Cromer said she couldn't vote for the tax decrease because it was introduced too quickly before she had time to go over the numbers.

Nigh, on the other hand, said the council should have listened to the city finance director's advice.

"There are too many unforeseen problems that could happen," Nigh said. "I'm with (Martin)."

How they voted



The Hagerstown City Council voted Tuesday to decrease the property tax rate by one cent per every $100 of the assessed value of a home.

Here is how council members voted:

Martin E. Brubaker, Yes

Kelly S. Cromer, No

Lewis C. Metzner, Yes

Penny M. Nigh, No

Alesia Parson-McBean, Yes

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