Harford's Glassman proposes property tax credits for long-time elderly residents, retired veterans

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Harford County Executive Barry Glassman is proposing to give eligible elderly Harford County residents and retired veterans a significant discount on their annual property tax bills, according to legislation introduced Tuesday to the Harford County Council.

The discount would be 20 percent of the county property tax on a dwelling with a maximum assessed value of $400,000. The county administration said the credit, if approved, would save an average of $550 annually for eligible homeowners.

The proposed tax credits are “for senior citizens and retired veterans who have invested so much in Harford County over the years,” Glassman said earlier Tuesday at the launch of his campaign for a second term as county executive.

“This will be provided to citizens that lived here a long time, paid their dues and for those veterans who have served our country,” he said.

At the same time, the county would eliminate the discounts given to property owners who pay their tax bills early.

Eligible residents who will have to apply for the newly proposed discount, are individuals at least 65 years old who have lived in the same dwelling for at least 40 years and individuals at least 65 years old who are retired from the “uniformed services of the United States,” according to the legislation.

The current county tax bill on a $400,000 property is approximately $4,160 based on a tax rate of $1.042 for properties outside a municipality. The county tax on such a property inside one of the municipalities of Aberdeen, Bel Air or Havre de Grace, is approximately $3,575, based on a rate of $.8937.

The difference in the two rates – called a differential – reflects that the municipalities bear the cost of maintaining their streets and tax their property owners for that expense, while the county does not.

The proposed tax credit has been introduced with a five-year sunset provision, and this would have to be renewed by agreement of county executive and County Council after that period.

The eligibility and term of the credit are required elements of enabling legislation signed by Gov. Larry Hogan in 2016, according to a news release from Glassman’s office.

“By following our path to fiscal balance and responsibility, my administration has made local government more efficient and halted the growing debt burden on our next generation. This has allowed us to fund overdue salary increases for teachers, law enforcement and county employees in each of the last three years,” Glassman said in the news release. “With this new legislation, we are taking the same balanced approach with a revenue-neutral tax credit that provides relief for senior citizens who have been longtime Harford County residents, and for those who retired here and have defended our nation.”

If all who are eligible apply, the tax credit would reduce revenue by an estimated $1.9 million a year, according to county government spokesperson Cindy Mumby.

But the county estimates it will become revenue neutral when it replaces the discount given to property owners who pay their taxes early, which will be phased out effective July 1, 2019. The discounts, 1 percent if the tax bill is paid during July and .5 percent if paid during August, averaged $21 a year per property tax account, she said.

Eliminating the early discount is being done “to make the new tax credit revenue neutral, consistent with the county executive’s fiscally responsible and balanced approach to the budget,” Mumby said. “The average benefit of $550 from the tax credit provides significant relief for eligible homeowners who have been longtime homeowners paying property taxes in the county, and for those who retired in Harford County and served our nation.”

The discount could benefit 3,500 homes, the county estimates.

After the bill was introduced, Councilman Jim McMahan said he has been working on the issue for some time.

“The county executive told me ‘Please be patient, I promise you I will do something because you are the Claude Pepper of Harford County,” McMahan said, referring to the 20th-century American politician of the Democratic Party and a spokesman for left-liberalism, and a crusader for the elderly.

“The county executive made good to me tonight,” McMahan said, and asked that he be included as a co-sponsor of the bill.

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