Annapolis says county overcharging it for services City battling property tax boost in court

June 09, 1996|By DAN THANH DANG | DAN THANH DANG,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County wants to overcharge Annapolis residents for services the city already provides, City Attorney Paul Goetzke charged Friday in a Circuit Court hearing.

The claim was part of a two pronged attack the city mounted before Anne Arundel Circuit Judge James C. Cawood Jr. in hopes of persuading him to over turn an 8-cent increase in the rate city residents pay property taxes to the county.

Cawood said he isn't sure he has the authority to do that.

"There are many issues presented here," he said. "Whether the court has the power to hear this case and then whether or not a hearing should be granted."

Meanwhile, Deputy County Attorney David A. Plymyer, disputed city officials' claims they were surprised by the tax rate increase because tax proposals are unveiled about the same time every year.

City residents pay property taxes to the county at a discounted rate to take into account the services the city already provides. City officials were outraged last month when they learned that County Executive John G. Gary had proposed raising that rate by 3 cents per $100 of assessed value, which would add $61 to the average property owner's annual tax bill in Annapolis.

They filed suit to stop the increase May 30, the day before the County Council adopted the budget. City lawyers claimed the county did not negotiate the increase "in good faith."

In a scathing response Wednesday, county attorneys accused Annapolis officials of "crafting a transparent, amateurish strategy aimed at generating a lawsuit" rather than negotiating an end to what has become a political feud. They labeled city officials "self-serving" and accused the Annapolis leadership of "publishing falsehoods" to further their legal claims.

Friday, Goetzke raised the issue of double-charging, questioning the county's rationale for charging the city $2.3 minion for fire protection when the city has its own fire department.

"Clearly, the county levied a property tax on city residents for services we already provide," he said. "We are asking the court to prohibit the implementation of the tax increase."

Plymyer noted that the county provides 911 service, training and emergency management.

Goetzke also charged in his opening statement that the "county failed to meet its obligations" to conduct good-faith negotiations over the tax rate and said city officials did not have enough time to review the proposed tax increase when it was presented to them April 29.

Plymyer said that issue hadn't been raised before.

"This is first time I've heard of the city's argument about not having enough time to digest what was received," he said. "There has never been any indication from the city that they needed more time to study the figures."

Cawood said he would make a decision early this week, adding '' that he needed to study whether he has the power to make the decision.

Officials on both sides said they were hopeful that the judge win rule in their favor.

"We'll see what the judge says and make the best determination," Plymyer said.

"Here's the bottom line," said city Alderman Carl O. Snowden a Ward 5 Democrat. "What the city has long been advocating is that there be a third-party advocate. Well, we have one now, and that's the judge."

Pub Date: 6/06/96

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