WESTMINSTER — The Maryland Municipal League has given Mayor W. Benjamin Brown's tax-deferral program for the elderly the thumbs-up.
But Del. RichardC. Matthews, R-Carroll, said it may be too late to get the measure through the General Assembly. Even so, he said he plans to talk to other county delegates about MML's endorsement.
MML Associate Director Steve McHenry said he informed Matthews the league has "no problems" with the legislative proposal. The county delegation asked MML to review Brown's measure.
The delegation's failure to introduce the bill the week before last was "disconcerting"to Brown. But the mayor expressed satisfaction with MML's stance.
"It's certainly what I expected from them," the mayor said. "I neverfelt they would not wholeheartedly support it. The benefits of it are very clear."
Under the proposed legislation, cities could allow elderly residents to defer any increases in their municipal taxes until they either sell their homes or die. At the time of any transaction, the city would then collect the money, compounded with interest, he said.
McHenry said the bill was modeled after a state law, approved by the General Assembly in 1988, that allows counties to offer the elderly tax deferral programs for rising county taxes. Municipalities have no authority to do so.
"If it's a discretionary piece of legislation, we wouldn't have a problem with it," McHenry said. "If itwas mandatory property tax relief for the elderly, we would have a problem."
MML spokesman Jim Peck said Brown's bill should be sellable to the General Assembly.
"It seems like an equitable means of dealing with those tax issues," he said. "It's discretionary, so townsthat wanted to, could. Those that didn't want to, wouldn't have to."
If enacted, Brown estimated the legislation would provide relief for about 800 of the city's 1,800 residents over age 65. The others either live in senior citizen centers or are renters. He said residents would have to apply to the city to participate in the tax-deferral plan.
In another matter at a Thursday morning press conference, Brown said city and county residents who are tired of rising cable television rates should have their service disconnected.
The mayor's recommendation comes on the heels of Prestige Cable TV Inc.'s plans toincrease monthly basic cable service from $20.50 to $22.15 in March.