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Town Council concerned about
tax burdens on the elderly

Rick Fulton
Gettysburg Times

(4/23) Emmitsburg Town Council was advised Monday to take note of the ratio of tax exempt lands in town and its impact on the elderly within the community during the council’s review of the draft comprehensive plan update.

Town Planner Sue Cipperly told the council, "Emmitsburg has a lower median household income compared to Frederick County and other towns in the county and has the highest number of people over 65 in the county. Of people over 65 in Emmitsburg, 44.4 percent of them are considered poverty level. We’re fourth in the state on that figure."

But layered on top of those statistics is the fact that an immense amount of land in Emmitsburg is tax exempt, meaning that the tax burden being placed on the backs of the populace at large, much less the poverty level seniors, is exacerbated.

"One area where Emmitsburg is a lot different from some other places is the amount of tax exempt land within its boundaries (which amount to 156 acres including parks and non-profit lands)," Cipperly stated.

"The Sisters of Charity’s property (located off South Seton Avenue) is 70 acres…which is 8.7 percent of the total land area of the town," the planner said. "Given the assessment of that property, the average property tax would be 25 percent lower if this properties paid taxes."

Cipperly told the council, "Part of the reason I’m particularly attuned to that is I live in Gettysburg where half the assessed value is tax exempt and it really puts a burden on the people who are paying taxes…Plus you get all this influx of people that basically use your place but don’t pay anything. Emmitsburg is half the size of Gettysburg. When we are considering land uses and changes to ordinance it’s something to be mindful of."

Council President Christopher V. Staiger said Cipperly’s findings serve as "a sort of warning to contemplate zoning and types of development and take a look at the type of impact that it could have on the overall structure.

Staiger said, "We need to be aware of these implications and the overall impact, especially given the social structure make up of the town that we’ve seen in the earlier sections regarding the percentages of older residents and other residents in the potentially disadvantaged categories and their concentrations within the municipality," he concluded.

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