Rationalizing Annapolis' differential City leaders must restrain from politicking, as they did last year.

March 05, 1997

THE CITY OF Annapolis is gearing up again for the annual battle over its property tax differential with Anne Arundel County, but this year promises to be different. At least that's what city administrator John L. Prehn says. Rather than rely on overheated rhetoric, as city officials did last year, they claim they will make their case on facts and reason. It is about time.

Setting the county property tax rate for Annapolis property owners should be a straightforward mathematical formula. City residents should be receiving tax credit for city services such as fire and police protection, garbage pickup and street sweeping and repair since county government does not provide those services inside Annapolis. As residents of the county, Annapolis property owners should pay for services the county does provide, including schools, the jail, social services and parks and recreation.

This year's differential is $1.01, which means Annapolis residents received a credit of $1.01 against their county property tax rate of $2.38 per $100 of assessed valuation. (With the city rate, their total tax bill is $3.03.) Last year's differential was 8 cents less than the previous year, meaning Annapolitans are paying more. City politicians howled last spring, but their constituents never mobilized behind them.

Casting themselves as protectors of beleaguered Annapolitans, a number of council members made a big show of contesting the differential. They went so far as to file a suit in state court. It was quickly dismissed.

These officials complained the rate was too high, but were unable to isolate any obvious overcharges or categories where city residents were not receiving full credit.

This being an election year for Annapolis, council members -- particularly those running for mayor -- may have to exercise self-restraint. Grandstanding against taxes is a politician's natural inclination, because it plays well with the voters.

With city and county fiscal officers exercising greater control over the process this time around, there won't be much opportunity for gratuitous outbursts against the differential.

Perhaps if things work out this spring to everyone's satisfaction, it can set a pattern for future years.

Pub Date: 3/05/97

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