Howard officials approve cut in property tax assessment cap

M Maryland

March 07, 2006|By LARRY CARSON | LARRY CARSON,SUN REPORTER

The Howard County Council approved a bill last night that would reduce the local property assessment cap from 5 percent to 4 percent in July 2007, despite a strongly worded last-minute veto threat from County Executive James N. Robey.

The bill, suggested by western county Republican Charles C. Feaga and co-sponsored by two other members, passed on a 3-2 vote, one shy of the margin needed to override a veto.

Robey's move was puzzling, said council Chairman Christopher J. Merdon, who said he first heard of it in a telephone message several hours before last night's voting session.

"What I'm most concerned about is there was no communication with the legislative branch," said Merdon, a candidate to succeed Robey as executive.

Feaga said he felt his bill "is only 1 percent. It's a very easy thing to do," he said. If it became law, the bill would cost an estimated $3.8 million a year in revenues, and save the owner of a median-priced $450,000 home $46 a year.

But Robey, a Democrat who has promised a 3 cent property tax rate cut in his budget proposal, denounced Feaga's bill as "an irresponsible policy and a dangerous maneuver." The roughly $4-a-month tax cut is "not worth the harm the legislation could eventually impose on our ability to deliver critical public services." Robey's cut would save that same homeowner $135 a year and cost the county $9 million in revenues.larry.carson@baltsun.com

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