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Westminster's Burdensome Honor


The city of Westminster has the honor of being the seat of the Carroll County government.

Some honor. Mayor W. Benjamin Brown calls it a "burden" because it costs his city an estimated $133,000 in real estate taxes that could be collected if county government buildings were taxable.

At a recent meeting with the three county commissioners, Mr. Brown claimed 21 county-owned properties in Westminster could generate almost $86,000 in property taxes. In addition, six county Board of Education buildings in the city could be taxed for nearly $47,000.

Westminster simply wants a little compensation for its "honor" as the county seat, Mr. Brown told the commissioners. After all, the city must pay to maintain and protect the county buildings and their environs, and other cities in the region with government buildings receive so-called PILOT money -- or "payment in lieu of taxes."

The state annually pays Annapolis about $300,000 in lieu of property tax payments on the many state buildings in the capital city. The state also gives the city of Baltimore about $100,000 a year rather than pay property taxes on the state-owned World Trade Center and various port facilities. The U.S. government has a similar arrangement with the District of Columbia.

The commissioners, who control Carroll's purse strings, are cool to the mayor's argument. They say the loss of property taxes is offset by county employees and visitors who spend money in Westminster. But the mayor won't relent. He wants further talks in hopes of convincing the commissioners to budget some PILOT money for Westminster.

Maybe then, Mayor Brown might better appreciate the honor of having the county seat in his town.

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