Harford County proposes 50 percent property tax credit for nonprofit swim clubs

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A bill proposing a 50 percent property tax credit for nonprofit swim clubs in Harford County is currently before the County Council.

The tax credit would affect five local clubs, including the Chesapeake Swim Club in Havre de Grace, the Fountain Green Swim Club and Rock Spring Swim Club, both in greater Bel Air, the North Harford Swim Club in Jarrettsville and the Fallston Swim Club, county Treasurer Robert Sandlass said during a public hearing Tuesday evening.

“The total tax bills for those five entities this year is a little over $33,000,” Sandlass said.

The real property tax credit would result in a savings of about $16,000 to $17,000, according to Sandlass. The average credit for each club would be $4,900, according to a fiscal note accompanying the bill, which has been proposed by County Executive Barry Glassman’s administration.

Sandlass said the county can put the credit forth, as enabling legislation has been approved at the state level by the Maryland General Assembly.

Senate Bill 982, which was approved and became law in 2006, allows counties and municipalities to grant a property tax credit for a “swim club property used exclusively for providing a recreational outlet for the community,” according to the General Assembly website.

The County Council did not vote on Bill 19-006 Tuesday. The administration would, if the bill is passed, develop “rules and regulations” to administer the credit, and it would apply to tax bills for next year that are sent out in July, Sandlass said.

Council members did not ask any questions or give comments, although three members of the community did.

“I would like to know what public good this serves,” Bel Air resident John Mallamo said.

Michael Ginski, board treasurer for the Fallston Swim Club, discussed some of the public benefits, as they apply to his facility. He described the Fallston club and other facilities as 501c7 nonprofit organizations.

“There is no one direct owner of these facilities,” he said. “They are all owned by the members.”

Ginski said a lot of development is happening in Harford County, and facilities are needed where people can visit and recreate.

“We can’t afford to keep these clubs running and that’s why this credit is important, to allow us those funds to put back into the clubs, to keep these facilities open for our community,” he said.

Ginski said the Fallston club has 76 employees, 36 who are under age 18, and about 37 more are age 18 to 24.

“This is a facility that allows our youth to get their first job, to learn CPR, to be trained, [to have] a place to go for the summer and learn to enter the workforce,” he said.

Ginski also said about 90 percent of the vendors the club uses are related to Harford County, and “100 percent” of the money saved with the tax credit would be invested in facility improvements.

Denise Perry, of Edgewood, noted the state legislation cites swim clubs used for community recreation, although the Harford County clubs that would qualify for the credit require membership to attend.

“I would say they’re not fully open to the public unless you can pay the cost of membership,” Perry said.

She said the amount of lost county revenue from the credit might seem “minimal,” but she said many people have come before the council, asking the body to fully fund the Harford County Board of Education’s operating budget request for fiscal 2020.

“You were going to look for money to help schools — I think that [revenue] could go towards that, thank you,” Perry told council members, drawing applause from an audience member.

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