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Letters to the Editor

June 19, 2010

County changing the way it taxes municipal residents



To the editor:

We sincerely hope that citizens residing in Washington County's nine municipalities will read this important information about county tax rates.

Since the mid-1980s, Washington County has provided municipalities within its corporate boundary a tax setoff in the form of tax rebates. This means the county collects extra property tax from you if you live in a municipality and then pays a rebate back to your municipality for services that the municipality provides. Over time, this form of voluntary tax rebates for tax setoffs has become antiquated, not truly addressed double taxation directly to the citizen and not clearly defined core county and municipal government services.

In order to more accurately reflect the true cost to each citizen for services provided, the Board of County Commissioners has approved replacing the old rebate method with a differential method for fiscal year 2011. Instead of collecting extra tax from municipal residents and giving it back to municipalities, the county will now only collect tax for services that the county provides to municipal residents such as education (which is more than 50 percent of the tax rate) and the court system, etc. The municipality will collect tax it feels is necessary to fund the services it provides directly to its residents.

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What does this mean to you?

As a municipal resident, your county tax rate will decrease by 12.5 cents per $100 of assessed real property value. Because the county is no longer rebating a portion of the property tax to your municipality, your municipality may need to adjust its property tax rate to fund its operations. How much your total tax rate of county and municipal rates combined goes down will be determined by the amount your municipality determines it must adjust its rate to offset the rebate that the county was providing and/or other losses of revenue. Some municipalities will not recover any of the decrease, in which case you will see the full 12.5-cent reduction, while others may need to recover the full amount since this provides an opportunity to offset lost revenue. In any case, the county decrease to you will exceed the amount of increase needed to offset the previously provided rebate. This is because of the county consolidating services for efficiencies and savings by moving core services to the main tax base -- the county, and because of a large reduction in state funding that has now increased the previous setoff amount. This is not only a benefit to the municipal resident, but also a benefit to the countywide taxpayer because it allows for a stable tax rate of 94.8 cents per $100 of assessed value, which is .5 percent lower than the rate required to maintain constant yield. Check with the municipality in which you live to determine the municipal rate that will be charged to you.

In summary, the change to a tax differential method of setting the property tax rate and its resulting decrease in municipal residents' county tax rates:

Brings parity between the county and municipal property tax rates -- no double taxation for similar services.

Creates a combined tax rate that is reflective of the true cost for services provided in municipalities.

Helps ensure that taxpayers have incentives to move into municipal areas.

Places the tax incentive (a lower county property tax rate) with the taxpayer since municipalities will collect taxes directly for the services they provide.

Please watch for this on your tax bill due out July 1.

Gregory B. Murray
Washington County administrator

Washington County Hospital provided excellent care



To the editor:

I was surrounded by professionals who were knowledgeable and methodical, who could pay attention to details and follow instructions and who worked well with others as well as with their superiors. They were treated gruffly and rudely by some of their "customers" and did not take it personally, they were courteous but still in charge and they could be gentle and nurturing or firm and steady as the situation called for. Where was I? I was a patient in two different units at Washington County Hospital.

My hat goes off and my gratitude pours out to the nursing staff. After a four-day stay that started in Same Day Surgery and moved to the Progressive Care Unit before I was stable enough to go home, I once again was reminded what a great job these women and men are doing. Their job doesn't stop when I leave the hospital. Other patients move in just as soon as the nurses and housekeeping staff get the room ready. They deserve public appreciation for the job they do so competently.

If your mom or dad is a nurse, be proud; if your neighbor is a phlebotomist, say thanks; and, if you know anyone who earns a paycheck from Washington County Hospital, please pass on the gratitude of this patient to them.

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