Havre de Grace Council introduces bills to increase water, property tax rates

Havre de Grace Council introduces bills on water, tax rates

The Havre de Grace City Council introduced bills Monday night that would raise water and sewer tax rates by 10 percent and set the real property tax rate at the constant yield rate for the 2017 fiscal year.

Water rates starting July 1 would be $5.85 per 1,000 gallons, and sewer rates would be $8.75 per 1,000 gallons.

The legislation is based on a recommendation by the city's water and sewer commission to increase rates by 10 percent, Council President Steve Gamatoria said.

The property tax rate, meanwhile, would increase from $0.56 per $100 of assessable real property to $0.5697.

"There is not a tax increase per se that the city is proposing," Gamatoria said, explaining the administration is proposing following through on adhering to the constant yield tax rate.

The personal property tax rate would stay at $1.705 per $100 of assessable personal property.

Public hearings on both bills are set for 6 p.m. next Monday, May 9.

The constant yield is the same amount of property tax revenue that can be generated from year to year by adjusting the tax rate to reflect increases or decreases in the total assessable tax base of city, as set by the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation.

An increasing constant yield rate reflects a decrease in the city's total assessable real property tax base, and the proposed rate increase, though slight, puts Havre de Grace on course to be the only municipality in Harford County that will have such a rate increase this year.

According to Havre de Grace's preliminary budget for 2017, the state has estimated the city's net assessable property tax base "will decrease by $24 million." As a result, the city estimates real property tax revenue at $7.8 million, about $40,000 less than what it estimated for the current fiscal year.

The Town of Bel Air plans to keep its real property tax rate at the same $0.50 per $100 of assessed value, which will increase real property tax revenue by about $112,000 to almost $6.9 million in 2017, according to budget documents.

The City of Aberdeen plans to decrease its real property tax rate slightly from $0.66 per $100 of assessed value to $0.6566, which Mayor Patrick McGrady says is the constant yield rate for the city. Revenue is still projected to increase by $408,000 to $8.8 million, according to budget documents.

Aberdeen Finance Director Opiribo Jack explained Tuesday, however, that the revenue estimate for this year's budget, which still has two months to run, was just that, an estimate, and doesn't account for such changes as new construction coming on line.

"The state sets the constant yield; we have no control over that," he noted.

Jack said Aberdeen's assessable base is expected to increase by about $6.9 million and speculated the bigger swing in Havre de Grace's is a result of the city having its triennial reassessment last calendar year, while Aberdeen's was in 2014.

Late educator remembered, upcoming events

Mayor Bill Martin recognized Terry LaPorte, who he said was prominent as a school librarian at Havre de Grace Middle School in the 1960s and 1970s.

Martin called him a "gentleman, a scholar."

Mr. LaPorte died April 16 at age 73, according to an obituary from Evans Funeral Chapel. He was inducted into the Harford County Educator's Hall of Fame in 2012 and was a founding member of the Harford County Public Schools Association of School Librarians, according to the obituary.

"Those who knew him really felt an impact on their lives," Martin said.

Councilman Dave Glenn also said Mr. LaPorte, in his final days, bragged about getting a challenge coin from Martin.

Also at Monday's council meeting:

• Martin noted the upcoming First Fridays event later this week has a theme of "Paint the Town Purple" to support the American Cancer Society's Relay For Life, as will businesses around town in general. Purple ribbons are being tied around the city and donation bins will be available to collect money during First Fridays.

• Martin said Bike To Work Day will take place in Havre de Grace on May 17 and start from Hutchins Park at 7 a.m. The event is one of three Bike To Work events in Harford County. "I will pump the air up in my tires and try to get out there," Martin said.

• Councilwoman Monica Worrell said she was pleased to hear Jenna Bush Hager, daughter of former president George W. Bush, speak at the Chesapeake Professional Women's Network last week. Worrell said Bush Hager was "a great speaker coming from a great family." Worrell mentioned voting in the recent presidential primary and said Bush Hager encouraged public service, as well as talking about her father, grandfather and their time in public office.

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