Confusion persists on semi-annual tax payments The...


January 23, 2000

Confusion persists on semi-annual tax payments

The Sun's recent article regarding property tax payments and county service fees contained erroneous information ("Voters urged to push counties to waive fee for property tax rebate." Jan. 11) .

The article claimed, incorrectly, that "starting July 1, all taxpayers will automatically go to a six-month payment schedule" and that "after July 1, everybody will be on the same system."

In fact, legislation enacted last year gives property-owners the opportunity to opt out of paying their taxes semi-annually by directing those who service their escrow by May 1, in writing, to pay their property tax in annual payments.

The article also stated that "refunds started going out last year to homeowners who asked their lenders to make their payments semi-annually."

Actually, such refunds have been available since 1995, when the General Assembly passed legislation to give property owners the choice of paying their property taxes in annual or semi-annual payments.

Since only three percent of the state's property owners had chosen semi-annual payments, I amended the 1999 legislation to exempt property taxpayers who continue to pay their taxes annually or in two payments before Sept. 30 from having to pay a county-imposed service charge.

As there is still widespread misunderstanding of the 1999 law, I have also asked the Maryland Association of Counties to offer greater notice about the new law in both newspaper advertisements and future property tax mailings.

John R. Leopold


The writer represents District 31 in the Maryland House of Delegates.

Listing murder victims hurts families, serves only to shock

In response to The Sun's editorial "Homicides 1999: What went wrong?" (Jan. 4), I would be very interested to know the purpose of listing the names of the city's 1999 murder victims.

Was it to remind the families or to shock the public?

The person who wrote this editorial could never understand the devastating effect on the victims' families of seeing their loved one's name in the paper.

Dealing with their death and the criminal justice system is enough for the families to go through, without having their loved one's name used to prove a point.

It also infuriated me that the only person the editorial specifically addressed was the minister from Park Heights, the Rev. Junior Lee Gamble.

If The Sun was to address specifics, it should have written them about each victim.

My son, Angus Breen, was murdered for the same amount of money as the minister, and he was only 14-years-old.

The detective in his case deserves the highest praise and the people I've met from the Baltimore City state's attorney's office have been helpful and supportive. I have also had help and support from the people in my community.

It is my opinion that the people of Baltimore cannot continually rely on politicians and overworked police to look out for us. We must look out for each other.

My heartfelt condolences to the families of the other victims.

Dianne Shoemaker


Reading The Sun's editorial, "Homicides 1999: What went wrong," I was appalled at the listing of the names of the city's 308 homicide victims.

I felt they were not relevant to the editorial that was written and were only included for shock value.

As a mother of one of the homicide victims, I feel this listing caused more pain and undue grief for the victims' families and friends. Putting these victims' names on public exhibition takes away their identity and makes them a statistic.

It is The Sun's job to print the news, not try to shock the public. If The Sun wants to help, it should write more articles on preventing violence.

Jennifer Kolego


`Partial birth' issue is just excuse to ban abortion

The Sun's report about the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to rule on abortion was a disservice to readers attempting to understand the constitutionality of bans on abortion procedures (Court to rule on gays, Scouts," Jan. 15).

While anti-choice leaders claim that the laws in question -- the so-called "partial birth abortion" ban -- is a late-term abortion prohibition, courts in 19 states have ruled similar laws unconstitutional because they are so broad as to ban most abortion procedures.

Why is it, then, that The Sun refuses to address the vagueness of such laws?

Let's recognize the "partial birth" issue for what it really is: an effort to ban all abortions.

Sarah Standiford


Some real estate `flippers' do the city a service

According to The Sun's definition, I "flip" houses in Baltimore City, since in almost every case I sell the houses for more than twice what I paid for them.

However, unlike the unethical investors and appraisers described in your recent articles, my company does a true service for our homeowners and for Baltimore and its neighborhoods.

In every case, we spend at least $15,000 for repairs on houses that otherwise sit vacant, often boarded-up. Then we are proud to sell a quality, remodeled house.

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