Only 2 testify in support of senior property tax cap ANNAPOLIS

November 13, 1992|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff Writer

Two elderly men were the only ones to brave last night's windy rainstorm to testify in favor of capping property taxes for seniors in Annapolis.

Neighbors Charles Hortopan, 60, and Thomas Conley, 64, who live in the Tyler Heights section, came to City Hall to support a bill to freeze property values for all homeowners at least 65 years old.

Alderman Wayne Turner drafted the legislation to protect the elderly people he met on the campaign trail in 1989 who complained that they no longer could afford to live in Maryland's capital city.

"I'm just in favor of reducing my taxes, period," Mr. Hortopan told the City Council's Finance Committee last night. "I'm definitely in favor because we're losing people going south, going north, going to Delaware. . . . I'd go myself if my wife would move."

Annapolis has held the line on property taxes the past two years, but higher state assessments increased average payments 9 percent annually. Next year, at the end of the three-year assessment cycle, the average tab will again rise 9 percent.

Mr. Turner, a Republican from the 6th Ward, said that some lifelong residents have told him they're being forced out of their homes by sharply rising property taxes.

He has proposed offering tax rebates and holding the line on assessments for all seniors who have lived in the city for seven years.

But several other council members have questioned whether the city can afford to forgo property tax increases. Others, pointing out that many wealthy seniors retire to waterfront homes in Annapolis, have said that they support a tax cap only for low-income seniors.

Alderman Ellen Moyer, D-Ward 8, asked Mr. Hortopan whether he thought property values should be frozen for seniors regardless of income. Mr. Hortopan replied that seniors deserve a break. He said that he's been living on a fixed income since retiring from his job as a technician with Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co. in 1987.

Mr. Conley simply said: "I just retired in February, and I'm looking for a way to save some money."

Annapolis' elderly population almost doubled in the past decade, according to U.S. Census data, from 2,270 in 1980 to 4,060 in 1990, 12 percent of the 33,187 population.

bTC Slightly more than 40 percent of the city's $37.2 million operating budget comes from property taxes. The city collected $15.5 million in property taxes this year, with about $9.3 million being paid by residents.

Mr. Turner maintains that the impact of his bill would be minimal. He said that only 675 seniors would qualify next year and that the rebates citywide would total $54,000.

The council is expected to vote on the bill Dec. 7.

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