Limit on property tax hikes incorporated in charter Increases would be linked to inflation index


WESTMINSTER -- The Carroll Charter Board voted unanimously last night to include a provision in the county charter that would limit property tax increases.

The nine-member board, which is writing a constitution for Carroll government, agreed that the principle of a property tax cap should be included in the charter, but decided that the language in the provision needed adjustments before being adopted.

The proposal links property tax revenue increases to increases in the Consumer Price Index, a measure for inflation. The county council would have to vote 4-1 or 5-0 to legally raise more money from property taxes than the previous year's revenue plus an adjustment for the CPI increase.

For example, assume the previous year's total budget was $100 million and the CPI increased 5 percent. The property tax rate must be set so that total revenues would not exceed $105 million.

A vote of four of the five council members could override the cap, which could be necessary in certain situations. For example, if the county were to create its own police force, the council might need more flexibility in raising revenue for a particular year.

Other changes to the tax rate could be made by a simple majority.

"That's why we have to have an escape hatch. We don't know what the future holds," said board member Charles O. Fisher Sr. "At the same time, voters in Carroll County would like the idea of having some control over real estate taxes."

The proposal is based on a provision adopted by Montgomery County.

The limit would not apply to revenue from newly constructed property, newly rezoned property and several other exceptions.

The board is writing the document that could replace Carroll's commissioner form of government with a system founded on a five-member council elected by district and an appointed administrator.

The charter will be put before voters, possibly on the Nov. 3 ballot. It will outline government's structure, powers and limitations.

The board will meet again at 7:30 p.m. next Tuesday at the Ag Center in Westminster.

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