Residents demand property tax rate reduction from council

May 17, 1994|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Sun Staff Writer

Disgruntled residents told County Council members last night to lower the property tax rate or face the consequences at the polls this fall.

"Some of you know that you are not coming back [to the council after the November election] and others may not come back -- it's something to think about," Shirley Geis, president of the Trotter Road Citizens' Association, told council members.

"Last year, I was the only person to protest," Ms. Geis said. "There are a lot more people tonight. That ought to tell you something."

Ms. Geis and other residents were

protesting the county's proposal to keep the property tax rate at $2.59 per $100 of assessed value. The rate could be cut to $2.52 if the county spends no more in the fiscal year beginning July 1 than it will in the current fiscal year.

Although the tax rate would be the same as last year, residents would actually pay more because of increased assessments.

Assessed values have increased in Ms. Geis' Clarksville neighborhood, she said, because of new development in the once-rural area. "We did not invite the $300,000 to $500,000 homes to come in, but they keep coming in," she said, "Assessments are based on sales, and assessments are up dramatically."

Ms. Geis said it is long-term residents with large lots, such as her and her husband, who will bear the brunt of the increased assessments. "We're going to be taxed out of our homes," she said. "In 10 years, we won't be able to afford it."

Mary Edith Flynn of Ellicott City said retired people also are hurt by increased assessments.

Ms. Flynn, a former Montgomery County tax assessor who retired in 1989, said she paid $75 more in property taxes last year than the previous year and will pay $74 more this year even though the tax rate is unchanged.

"I strongly protest this increase," Ms. Flynn told the council. "When are we going to get a break? Consider

those of us who are retired and still have responsibilities.

"We have been and are still paying our dues. I like for government to be as careful with my pocketbook as I am."

Janet M. Sloan of Ellicott City told council members it is "time our government representatives rethink their political agendas."

Every year a higher percentage of family income is "confiscated" by the government, Ms. Sloan said.

"I am not here to tell you how to cut spending or where," she said, "but to express my philosophical objections to ever-increasing taxes."

Patrick Donnan, president of the Howard County Taxpayers Associa

tion, criticized the council and the administration for what he said was an "inability to curb spending."

The county is proposing to spend $26 million more in the coming fiscal year, Mr. Donnan said, because of increased assessments. He said his property taxes have increased $200 this year "because of this hidden tax increase. There is no justification for it."

Three of the speakers -- Ms. Geis and Joshua R. Vincent and Jim Oglethorpe of Columbia -- proposed alternatives for raising revenue.

The council will set the property tax rate May 23 and vote on the proposed budget for the coming fiscal year.

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