The County Council appears set to throw its weight behind County Executive Robert R. Neall's proposed 10 percent cap on property tax assessments.
A majority of the seven council members said Friday they plan to vote in favor of a bill -- Neall's first piece of legislation -- to limit annual growth in individual property tax assessments to 10 percent.
A public hearing on the legislation is slated for tonight's County Council meeting, set for 7:30 at the Arundel center in Annapolis.
Neall's bill is largely a formality, because state law already mandates a 10 percent assessment cap. The state law does allow local governments to impose a lower limit on property tax growth, but, despite an ongoing outcry over property taxes, most council members said they are unwilling to support anything lower than 10 percent.
"A lot of people would like it to be less, but I don't think in this day and age we can really do that," Council Chairwoman Virginia P. Clagett, D-West River, said. "It's best to leave a door open, so we leave ourselves some flexibility."
With county revenues dropping by the millions due to a slowdown in the economy, Councilman George Bachman, D-Linthicum, said, a 10 percent limit is all the county can afford. A lower assessment cap could increase the chances of layoffs and tax increases, he said -- and he adamantly opposes both options.
"If we go below the 10 percent," Councilman Carl G. "Dutch" Holland, R-Pasadena, said, "we'll have to make even more drastic cuts than what (Neall's) already proposing."
A number of other bills also are up for public hearing tonight, including: * An emergency ordinance, sponsored by Clagett, extending a moratorium on sand and gravel operations until April 1.
* Four bills to add nearly 1,000 acres in South County to agricultural land preservation areas.
* A bill to grant $61,000 in unanticipated county revenues to the Department of Social Services for a new furnace at the Sarah's House homeless shelter on Fort Meade.
City council The Annapolis City Council will sponsor three public hearings on planning and zoning issues tonight.
Arundel Signs Inc. has asked the council for permission to install an 8-by-13-foot sign at Court of Shanghai, 1975 West St.
Atlantic Food and Beverage Systems Inc., hopes to make interior modifications to Jason's Restaurant at 400 Sixth St.
Dimitri Sfakiyanudis has asked for conditional use approval to build a parking lot at the Sigma Business Center, 45 Old Solomons Island Road.
The meeting will begin at 7:30 in the City Council chambers in City Hall on Duke of Gloucester Street.
Elise Armacost Staff writer Reporter Paul Shread contributed to this story.