Anne Arundel County's leading tax rebel has dropped his threat to challenge in court the county's limit on property assessment increases, a move that could have threatened property tax credits for more than a half-million homeowners statewide.
Robert C. Schaeffer, president of the Anne Arundel Taxpayers Association, said yesterday the County Council met his demands when it dropped the property tax rate by 8 cents last week to $2.38 per $100 of assessed value.
Mr. Schaeffer, author of an initiative that limits the increase in the county's property tax revenue to 4.5 percent each year or the rate of inflation, whichever is less, threatened the suit last December after the County Council adopted a 4 percent cap on annual assessment increases.
County Executive Robert R. Neall said then he introduced the cap to give homeowners the lower tax bills they expected when they approved the property tax revenue limit at the polls last November.
But Mr. Schaeffer complained that the assessment cap benefits only affluent homeowners whose properties increase in value more rapidly than others. He said the executive should lower the tax rate by 9 cents.
When he introduced his budget last month, Mr. Neall lowered the tax rate by 4 cents. The council cut another 4 cents, enough to satisfy Mr. Schaeffer. Now, he said, the county executive is stuck with both lower assessments and a lower tax rate.
"Motives aside, [the council] did the right thing from the taxpayers'point of view," Mr. Schaeffer said. "We get the best of both worlds."
Had Mr. Schaeffer gone ahead with his suit, a statewide cap on assessment increases, as well as local limits in several counties, could have been in jeopardy.
And Mr. Schaeffer would have had powerful ammunition in several opinions by Maryland attorneys general that held that percentage limitations on residential assessment increases violate a state constitutional clause that mandates uniformity in assessments and taxation for all property.
"We've always believed it had some, quote, potential constitutional problems," Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. said yesterday.
"Fortunately for the state, no one has seriously challenged it," he said.