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Local Resident Asks Commissioners To Restore Fairness To Property Taxes

Jul. 19, 2012

The Garrett County commissioners held their bimonthly pubic meeting on Tuesday afternoon. A wide variety of topics were on the agenda, including a presentation about “restoring fairness” to real property taxes, a discussion about opting out of new sprinkler system requirement, funding for the Partners After School program, a public hearing involving the solid waste management plan, and recognition of the Greater Cumberland Committee.

Local resident/business owner Michael Bell gave a 30-minute presentation about restoring fairness to real property taxes. He noted that gas companies, such as Chevron, are exempt from paying property taxes on the Marcellus and Utica shale mineral rights/leases that they from western Maryland landowners.

Bell indicated that other property owners usually do not mind tax exemptions for churches, hospitals, and other entities that are important to their communities. But anytime something is taken off the tax base, other property owners and businesses end up paying more in taxes in order to generate much-needed revenue.

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Bell noted that the county’s revenue base is not growing and that the commissioners may have to raise taxes and/or reduce services in the future. He presented three assessment scenarios in which the county could generate, perhaps, as much as $6.7 million annually by taxing those who have purchased mineral rights/natural gas leases. He stressed that the state already has administrative and legal mechanisms in place to allow this to happen.

“I hope this stimulates discussion about this,” Bell said about his presentation.

In addition to Garrett, he noted, people in Allegany, Washington, and Frederick counties are affected by proposed Marcellus/Utica shale drilling. He suggested that an informal work group consisting of representatives from the four counties be formed to discuss the property tax issue further.

Commission chair Jim Raley thanked Bell for presenting the issue. Raley called it an “interesting idea,” and indicated it could be discussed further.

Also on Tuesday, the commissioners reviewed a new state law that requires new one- and two-family homes to have sprinkler systems. GC Department of Planning and Land Development officials were under the impression that jurisdictions could not opt out of the requirement and had to adopt the new standard in their building codes ordinance by Oct. 1.

But the county’s Permits and Inspections Division was recently notified by the Maryland Codes Administration that jurisdictions can delay that adoption.

“Local governments can opt out until the next cycle of building codes comes into play, which is in 2015,” Planning and Land Development director John Nelson told the commissioners.

More here.

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