Apr. 28, 2011
The Garrett County commissioners held a constant yield hearing last Thursday evening at Garrett College. Eleven people attended the event, with four of them voicing their concerns about property tax rates. The hearing lasted 15 minutes.
Maryland jurisdictions are required to hold hearings whenever they are considering not reducing their real property tax rates enough to fully offset increasing assessments.
The commissioners are proposing to keep the current real property tax rate at $.99 per $100 of assessment in fiscal year 2012. Since the county’s assessable base is expected to increase by .3 percent in the next fiscal year, keeping the current tax rate would generate an estimated $121,725 in additional revenue in FY ’12, according to Financial Services director Wendy Yoder.
In order to have the same amount of tax revenue in FY ’12 as in FY ’11 ($44,880,148), the county would have to set the real property tax rate at $.9874 (the constant yield).
Several members of the Garrett County Board of Education attended the hearing.
“I would certainly encourage you to maintain the real property tax rate at the current level or consider increasing the rate to aid education,” Dr. Wendell Teets, superintendent of schools, told the commissioners. “As you are aware, funding resources at the state and federal levels are continuing to decrease.”
He said conservative funding scenarios indicate the BOE will loose between $3.5 and $7.5 million in state aid over the next five years.
Teets noted the property tax used to be $1 and returning to that rate would generate an additional $500,000 in revenue for the county.
“Of course, it’s easy to cut taxes in good times and hard to make compensations when times are tough, but we’re asking you to make sacrifices for our students,” Teets told the commissioners. “Raising the rate to help fund education seems like a good way to invest in our children’s education and future.”
Representative Steve Benson, Garrett County Teachers Association, said the public spoke loudly and clearly at other recent hearings about maintaining the current educational system.
“They do not want their students to lose the benefits and the offerings and the quality of education that they currently have,” Benson said.
He noted that polls at state and national levels consistently show that people are willing to pay to educate their children.
“We are not asking for huge increases, but we are asking that you to consider levying a property rate that will allow you to maintain the quality of education that we currently offer our students,” Benson told the commissioners.
Oakland resident DeCor-sey Bolden said he knows the commissioners have worked hard on the proposed FY ’12 budget. But he asked them to make even more cuts.
“I plead with you men that you can find a reason to cut another $121,725 and begin to bring our county into the constant yield rate,” Bolden asked the commissioners. “Other counties haven’t done this, so let us lead the way.”
Apartment rental businessman Vaughn “Buzz” Johnson, Oakland, said he realizes what the newly elected commissioners are “up against” in dealing with their first budget.
But, Johnson noted, his property assessments continue to rise, while his property values keep plummeting.
He said he is also concerned that the average local government employee’s wage is $743 a week, yet the average wage for someone in the private sector is $517, according to the GC Chamber of Commerce.
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