Home values grow in south

New assessments show increase of 12 percent

Fast-growing section gets notices

Government expects 8 percent rise in revenue

Carroll County

January 02, 2004|By Hanah Cho | Hanah Cho,SUN STAFF

The reassessment of home values in fast-growing southern Carroll County is another boon for a county government budget that in recent years has benefited from increases in property tax revenue.

County budget officials expect property tax revenues for next year's budget to be 8 percent higher than those for the current fiscal year. They are estimating tax revenues of $113 million for the county's projected $257 million budget for next year, which would mean that the portion of the budget paid for through property taxes would go up for the third straight year.

In the one-third of Carroll County where properties were reassessed, values rose an average of 12 percent, which was in line with the average increase statewide. Properties were reassessed in Carroll's southern area, including Mount Airy and Sykesville, and a portion of western Carroll, including New Windsor.

"You don't want to see your taxes go up that much, but if I'm getting it back in property value, I probably won't mind it that much," said Westminster real estate agent Scott Gentile, who lives in Taneytown.

Gentile, chairman of the Carroll County Association of Realtors' political action committee, said he is not surprised that property values have rise in southern Carroll.

"People want to be close to Frederick or I-70," he said. "The only way to do it is to be in South Carroll."

State officials say Maryland home values are rising at the fastest rate in more than a dozen years. Tuesday, 645,000 property assessment notices were mailed out statewide.

The new values are phased in over three years. The state has a system of assessment limits that protects homeowners from ballooning taxes. In Carroll County, assessment increases are limited to 10 percent.

For Carroll's government, the increase in value means more money for its operating budget.

"Anyone who owns a home in Carroll County knows of" rising property values, budget director Ted Zaleski said at last week's budget process presentation. "Assessments are rising, rapidly making property tax our strongest revenue."

This year's $245 million operating budget also benefited from increasing property values. Property tax revenue was about $104 million, nearly 6 percent more than the previous year.

Property tax revenue accounted for about 41 percent of the budget for the fiscal year that began in July 2001. That number increased slightly in the next fiscal year and rose to almost 43 percent in the current budget.

If estimates hold, property tax revenues will pay for 44 percent of the budget in the next fiscal year.

That budget also will include revenue increases from the county's piggyback income tax. This year, the commissioners raised rates for the county income tax and recordation tax, which homeowners pay upon settlement.

The county commissioners, saying the county needs more money to pay for an increasing demand for government services brought on by growth, are seeking General Assembly approval to impose a transfer tax on real estate transactions.

The commissioners say they want people who would benefit from development to pay for increased costs rather than raise property tax rate for all homeowners. Some opponents have complained that a transfer tax would affect a small percentage of county residents instead of requiring all residents to share the burden of paying for government services.

The county's property tax rate is $1.048 for each $100 of the property's full value.

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