The Frederick County Council on Tuesday will be voting on whether to adopt a new property tax rate “constant rate” or reduce the property tax rate to receive the same amount of revenue from the property tax as last year “constant yield.” I will be voting to reduce the property tax rate on households this year to put more money in the pockets of families, the majority of which have taken an economic hit as a result of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

What makes this “constant rate” a tax increase is that properties are re-assessed every three years, and generally in a county like Frederick, they increase in value. If the same tax rate is applied to a property that has increased by 50 percent, then the property taxes that a citizen will pay on that property will also increase by 50 percent. Unlike the income tax, (which also remains constant but people pay more actual dollars as their income increases) there is not necessarily a corresponding increase in the property owner’s household budget, simply because their home value increased on paper. This means that the amount of total dollars that a household must pay toward property tax generally increases every year unless the County Council acts to adjust the property rate downward.

The County Council has received numerous communications on this front, many of which are strikingly alarmist, saying that reducing the property tax rate to maintain the same amount of revenue as the prior year is equivalent to “starving the county of funds.” The facts tell a different story. This year, maintaining the constant yield and lowering the tax rate would reduce potential revenue by $8.5 million in the $665 million proposed budget. This would not necessitate any actual cuts in the county budget. The county budget this year is set to increase by about $28 million. So even adopting the constant yield this year, allowing families the economic certainty in these difficult times of not having to pay more of their household budget toward taxes, would still afford the county about a $20 million budget increase.

Cutting the property tax rate is a reasonable proposal that would help real households in Frederick County, and is needed more than ever. I opposed the constant rate last year, also asking for a county property tax decrease (when it accounted for less than $4 million of the $34 million increase in the budget). Last year the argument against this was that economic times were good and we needed to take advantage of the good times to take care of priorities in anticipation of leaner times.

This year, we are unfortunately entering lean times. The unemployment rate is around 15 percent at the time of writing and many more people are facing a reduction in household income. Business as usual of keeping the tax rate constant with increased home values causing a higher tax burden is not acceptable during these times. We must act to help struggling households. We have the financial ability at the county level to provide predictability in tax bills by lowering the tax rate in these uncertain times and the County Council should act to do so.

Phil Dacey is a member of the Frederick County Council.

(17) comments

caspiansails

The county and state need to reduce the cost to live here. He is an absolute fact. I will be retiring in just a few years. I actually like this area for the weather etc. but I will be leaving as a retiree I will need to protect my income as much as possible from taxes. Not here. Higher property taxes after every reassessment and we are not just talking a few dollars, higher gas taxes linked, not to a new bill but are automatic, my pension, social security and disbursements from retirements will also be taxed at a high rate. I can move just a few hundred miles and avoid most of winter and every tax on my income, my social security, my pension, my retirement account disbursements at the state level and still have excellent services. Why would I stay here and be abused?

public-tertiary

No friends, eh?

DickD

You can definitely save money on property taxes, especially in West Virginia. ..But you don't get the benefits provided by the taxes either

Jaco

The reality is that almost all of us must tighten our budgets and cut expenditures. County staffing needs to be reduced and people need to do more with less. For example, no County employee earning more than $75,000 should receive a pay increase in fiscal year 2021. Unfortunately, there should be no grants to arts, entertainment or tourism organizations. Staffing in the County Executive’s Office should be reduced. Government must return to the basics including the oversight of public health.

CheetoBenito

Beause everyone knows making $75,000 a year makes you super rich!

hayduke2

Whie we all moan about taxes, I am willing to pay for the services we receive. Arguing about the differences and the impact on the county budget is fine, but now is not the time to decrease revenue. Discuss this when the current economic downturn starts to rebound.

wran

There is no apparent rhyme or reason or fairness in the way houses are assessed. For years, the house next door to me was appraised about $ 100,000 higher than mine. Then, mine was appraised $25,000 higher than the neighboring house. Neighbor's house was larger with larger lot. Both houses built by Ausherman. Also, there was an almost identical house up the street that was appraised $100,000 lower than mine. I appealed. Was told that I had a designer house and the appraisal was based on the estimate to rebuild the same house. I did not have a designer house. In fact I cut a lot of corners in building the house. They said I had upgraded materials in my house, which I did not. They said I had granite counters. I did not. They said I had tiled kitchen and bathroom floors. I did not. Ausherman told me all the houses had 80 % of the same materials from the same suppliers. Assessor said it would take $ 10,000 to rebuild the patio. My patio was built by my 13 year old son using left over brick and sand. It cost nothing to build. Yet, assessment was $ 10,000 to rebuild same home made patio. I appealed pointing out the errors in my appraisal and assessment was lowered. Still, the assessment climbs ever upward each 3 years. It even went up during the housing bust. You can see the appraisal values of all houses in Maryland on the states real estate website. When my appraisal went up during the bust there was a very expensive house in the area valued at over a million. The appraisal was lowered $ 600,000 at the same time mine was raised. I would certainly leave Maryland but for family ties.

Greg F

I have no faith there is an ounce of integrity in assessors and their ability to do the job. My gut tells me they get bonuses on how much value increase they can get away with. Either that or they were the ones picked on in school and this is their revenge. Either way...I wouldn't trust them as far as I could toss them.

sofanna

Agree having no faith in integrity in assessors of our properties. Property taxes that keep increasing will FORCE many of us to sell our homes, which we love, and go into retirement communities, if we can afford them, or move to another state. Maryland may lose in the end.

Greg F

The county acts as if home value is cash they can take from you or that it is income. Property values may increase, but that isn't realized until you sell a home...and try to by another that hasn't already also gone up. Pay hasn't increased proportionate to home value increases, so where does the county think we can just magically come up with the extra money? Make some friggin' cuts already. Bid on projects more competitively. Put that onus on the builder, who's been out there raping the land for decades and not doing their fair share to expand roads or build schools that are maxed out thanks to their blitzkrieg of new homes murdering the landscape. There are surely places to cut also...we don't need schools built like the Taj Mahal..just basic but could use more room to accommodate the squashing from all the new developments. Also make the developers widen roads and build better infrastructure where the rip down the entire hillsides to put 1000 homes (along Gashouse Pike for instance) vs building some stupid sculpture where it has the visibility instead. I am moving out as soon as possible even before retirement. Telework has really made that possible. I can cross into Carrol county for less taxes or just go over the bridge to WV or VA. Frederick can do without my income spent here if it wants to keep pick pocketing us with tax increases. Like the other commenter said...why should I pay more for the same services just because some assessor says my house is worth more? Sorta assumptive that it's income that is available due to that disparity. Assumes way too much. I also question a lot of where those values come from...and the true intent for increases. Sketchy.

bosco

County budget goes up every year. Does anyone's income go up a corresponding percentage?

Also, notice how politicians often rationalize a budget shortfall. The various department submit their budget wishlists. Those are tallied up into the proposed budget. The someone looks at the expected revenues. If the proposed budget is greater than the revenue, the politicians decry a shortfall and attempt to raise taxes.

That doesn't work at Bosco Manor unless one of the Boscos wants to take on another job and I daresay it doesn't work in your neck of the woods either.

Jleftwich

It's a conundrum. While we all hate paying more in property taxes, the fact remains that the county's population will continue to grow (albeit a bit slower, perhaps, with the Covid crises playing a role). A big draw is the quality of schools. The first question asked when people are assigned to Ft. Detrick is: "How are the schools?"

You mention budget wishlists, and it got me to thinking about how the Sheriff's office (i.e., Jenkins) is always giving money back at the end of the year. He's often lauded for it. But it makes me wonder, if he is *always* giving money back, why ask for so much?

FrederickFan

Phil Dacey is the laziest elected official in the history of the county. He didn't even show up half the time when he was a city alderman. He is proposing cutting the tax rate but doesn't have cuts in spending to go along with it. What will he cut and had he worked with the other council members to build consensus for cuts in spending? Of course not. It's just politics with no work.

lehseh

I fail to see why the burden of supporting the county is placed so much on homeowners. In a time where mortgage interest and property tax payments no longer mean much in income tax relief, how about a break for those who work hard to own a home? I fail to see why I yearly pay taxes on a home I pay for based on what someone says my home is worth. The house next door is just as nice as mine but because someone says its 'value' is $40,000 less than the 'value' of my home I pay more in taxes. We all receive the same county and town services but I have to pay more? They may make more money than I do and just because an assessor says what my house is worth does not mean I am not working hard to make ends meet to keep my American Dream of home ownership alive. Once my family is grown and I retire from my job, we most likely will be leaving Frederick County for lower cost of living, mainly due to property tax laws. Don't tell me to move to a less expensive home, that is not the point I am trying to make. It's an unfair tax that says if you have a home valued at $150,000 you pay less than your share to maintain the services of the county than someone in a home assessed at $200,000 even though you live right next door to each other. Fair? I think not.

drewboy44

Yea Solid point. Property taxes tied to home value probably not the answer especially now that only 10k of SALT taxes can be deducted from your taxes. Might as well turn your house into a B&B, lose paper money and write off the loss.

Jleftwich

Lehseh: have you tried the route of appealing your assessment? I've done it, wasn't successful, but it was pretty easy and straightforward. Thought, you have to do with within a certain timeframe of receiving your updated county assessment (45 days, I believe).

threecents

It does seem strange to base taxes on the value of non-liquid assets.

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