Council to meet tonight on property tax rate


Anne Arundel County property owners will get their chance to ask the County Council to lower their tax rate tonight during a public hearing on the constant-yield property tax rate.

But one of the county's most vocal tax protesters will be missing.

Robert Schaeffer, who engineered voter approval of a property tax cap in November, says he is skipping the meeting.

"It's all public show," he groused last week. "It means nothing."

The constant-yield rate is the tax rate that would produce the same amount of revenue from property taxes next fiscal year as was produced this year, figuring in increased assessments. The county is required to hold the hearing if its proposed tax rate is higher than the constant-yield rate.

Mr. Schaeffer claims that the tax rate was decided in December when the council adopted a 4 percent cap on annual assessment increases at the urging of County Executive Robert R. Neall.

Without the assessment cap, Mr. Neall would have been forced to lower the property tax rate 9 cents to comply with Mr. Schaeffer's tax cap, which prohibits the total property tax revenue the county collects from growing more than 4.5 percent a year or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower.

In the $668.6 million budget the executive proposed two weeks ago, the tax rate drops by only 4 cents. Mr. Neall said taxpayers still will save because of the reduced assessments. The lower tax rate of $2.42 per $100 of assessed value is 3 cents higher than the constant-yield rate of $2.39.

Mr. Schaeffer, who argues that the tax rate should go down the full 9 cents, may get some help from Council Chairman David G. Boschert, a Crownsville Democrat, and Councilman Edward Middlebrooks, a Severn Democrat. Both have said they are working with the county auditor to find a way to lower the tax rate 5 cents more, to take it below the constant-yield rate.

The hearing will begin at 7:30 p.m. The council has several other bills also scheduled for public hearings tonight, including a proposal to increase the marriage license fee by $20 to $45 to pay for programs to curb domestic violence.

Tomorrow night, the council will consider the annual personnel bill, which establishes the county work force for the year.

The council also has scheduled hearings at 1:30 p.m. today with the police and fire unions on their contract negotiations, which are at an impasse. It will meet tomorrow afternoon with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Local 582, which represents blue-collar workers, and Local 2563, which represents secretarial and clerical employees. Those two sets of talks are also deadlocked.

On Wednesday, the council is scheduled to meet at 1:30 p.m. to discuss the pension plans.

All meetings will be held in the Council Chambers at the Arundel Center in Annapolis.

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