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Motion for tax rate fails

Ingrid Mezo
The Gazette

(4/20) A motion for staff to prepare the town budget using the constant yield tax rate — the rate the town would have to impose in order to obtain the same amount of property tax revenue in fiscal 2007 as it received in fiscal 2006 — failed during a town meeting Monday.

The current tax rate in Emmitsburg is 36 cents per $100 of assessed property value; the constant yield tax rate is 33.1 cents.

Commissioner Chris Staiger, who made the motion to use the constant yield rate in preparing the budget, said his understanding was that as assessment values of homes continue to rise, the town receives substantially more income if they charge the same tax rate this year as they did last year.

Mayor James Hoover and town manager Dave Haller pointed out that when previous administrations had cut taxes in the past, they ran into serious problems, then had to raise taxes drastically the next year.

‘‘In the past, the town literally had to go out to the bank to make payroll,” Hoover said, referring to an occasion in which the town had to take out a loan to pay its staff.

‘‘My point is that if we don’t need the money, we shouldn’t take it,” Staiger said. ‘‘We have the funds we need to perform the tasks we need to perform ... I believe if we adopt the constant yield tax rate this year, it would have to be assessed on a year to year basis.”

Commissioner Glenn Blanchard, who seconded Staiger’s motion, said he was interested in seeing the figures the staff would bring back.

The motion ultimately failed, with Commissioners Art Elder and Bill O’Neil against.

Haller said that if the town adopted the constant yield rate this year rather than keeping the tax rate where it is, the town would lose $42,324 in revenue.

A homeowner of a $250,000 home would save about $72.50 for the year using the constant yield tax rate in 2007.

‘‘So the relief that we’re going to provide is basically three visits to the Pizza Hut,” O’Neil said. ‘‘I don’t think we’ve been wasting or squandering money ... It’s a popular mantra that government should be run like a business, however businesses do not have to confront unknowns. The purpose of government is to prepare for the unexpected.”

Water tap surcharge imposed

Town officials voted unanimously on Monday to impose a $7,000 surcharge to water tap charges for new homes being built to help pay for a clarifier unit that will be installed in the next year between Rainbow Lake and the water treatment plant.

The unit will ‘‘enhance and optimize the operation and out put capacity of the water treatment plant,” Town Manager Dave Haller said in a memo to town officials.

Town to become certified as Civil War Heritage area

Town officials unanimously passed a resolution on Monday authorizing the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area agreement plan for approval by the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority.

The resolution will allow the Civil War Heritage Area steering committee to submit a certification plan for Emmitsburg, which would allow the town to potentially attract tourism dollars headed to Gettysburg and get state historic preservation grant funds.

The Maryland Area Heritage Authority recognized a region, known as the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area, that includes portions of Frederick, Carroll and Washington counties in 1999. Since then, a steering committee made up of representatives from all three counties has been drawing up a management plan that would involve amendments to local jurisdictions’ comprehensive plans to apply for certification.

The steering committee hopes to apply for certification when it meets with the Maryland Heritage Area’s board on May 4, county planner Janet Davis said.

Prior to the vote, Parks and Recreation Committee member Tim O’Donnell fully backed the resolution.

‘‘I’m biased because I teach U.S. history,” O’Donnell joked. ‘‘...This program encourages the town to participate in the Main Street Maryland program, and I think there’s a real enhancement opportunity here for the town.”

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