The Howard County Council has decided to wait until after the Nov. 6 general election to vote on legislation that would limit property tax assessment increases to 5 percent a year.
The council voted 4-1 Monday to table that bill and two other controversial pieces of legislation, saying it needed more time to study the measures.
The tax bill, sponsored by Councilman Charles Feaga, R-5th, would lower the cap beyond the 10 percent statewide limit set by the General Assembly in the last legislative session.
Councilman C. Vernon Gray, D-3rd, however, said the council should wait until it gets information from the state in November on the next round of assessments. He said the county government may need more flexibility to deal with unexpected budgetary problems than the five-percent cap provides.
As an example, Gray cited the dramatic rise in heating fuel prices being paid by the county and the public schools. The projected fuel costs for schools when the budget was being prepared was 57 cents a gallon, but the current price is $1.03 a gallon, he said.
"We know we're going to lose some revenues going back to 10 percent a year," he said, "but we don't need to shoot ourselves in the foot here."
Feaga, who voted against tabling the measure, countered that, although his bill would have reduced county revenue by $2 million, the government could get the money back by raising the tax rate -- now $2.45 per $100 of assessed property value -- by four cents.
"It would not be a great deal of difference," he said.
The council also voted 5-0 to table Executive Elizabeth Bobo's proposed adequate public facilities ordinance because a number of representatives of business, development interests and community associations had said during a public hearing that they needed more time to review the complex documents.
Councilwoman Angela Beltram, D-2nd, said there was plenty of time to vote on the proposal because an 18-month cap on building permits remains in effect until March. The permit cap was designed to give county officials time to implement permanent growth-management measures.
Bobo's ordinance would restrict growth to areas where schools and roads are not overburdened, or require builders to donate school sites or construct roads to accommodate their new developments.