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From the desk of
Town Commissioner Chris Staiger

(1/10) I hope everyone has had a Merry Christmas and a safe and happy holiday season! We should be thankful for the many individuals, groups, and businesses who have volunteered their time and energy to provide food resources, activities, decorations, and holiday cheer to the Emmitsburg area community.

It's nice, for example, to be able to take the kids to the fire house or Mother Seton School to see Santa (and a magic show or have breakfast with your friends and neighbors) instead of standing in line at a mall in Frederick. This is what makes Emmitsburg more than just a collection of housing developments or a bedroom community - and, on a personal note, helps fortify me against the cynical commentary that can crop up throughout the season!

So winter decided to come early this year, not even waiting for fall to come to an end! I think the town road crews did a fantastic job - having every road cleared the next day, Sunday, and the remaining snow cleared from the parking spots on Main Street by the close of business Monday.

For those of us who have lived in Baltimore or Montgomery counties, you know it can easily take twice as long to get the job done. Who knows what all this portends for the rest of the season? I think we all suspect we're due for a big winter after five years of minimal snow! As we've seen, the town crews are up to the task.

Okay, so now down to a little business… The Town has decided to join with numerous other municipalities to challenge the County Commissioners' recent change to their Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO). This change was an attempt to limit annexation powers granted to municipalities by the State government.

My expectation is that the municipalities' challenge will be upheld in court because the county failed to prove that the action was necessary to protect the public heath, safety, and welfare of citizens in the unincorporated areas of the county. That being said, the Town must, regardless, adopt an APFO in order to establish clear guidelines for the requirements and impacts of any annexation and growth. I am committed to finalize a municipal APFO before the year is out.

Frederick County Commissioner Lennie Thompson has also proposed a change to Fire Tax calculation and distribution which is projected to result in an 80% increase of the fire tax assessment for Emmitsburg area tax payers (an increase from 12.8 cents to 22.5 cents for every $100 of assessed value). Currently, the fire tax is collected county wide and distributed based on local service requirements.

The Thompson proposal requires the local district to fully fund the local service requirement on its own. The cost of service within the district is divided across the assessable tax base of that district. While this might seem an equitable plan, in that you are theoretically responsible for paying for what you're using, it contains a not so hidden burden for Emmitsburg area tax payers: a significant level of service goes to large institutions not subject to the fire tax due to their tax exempt status.

The cost of service to these tax exempt institutions, however, is still divided over the remaining tax payers. Under the current system, this type of burden throughout the county is shared among all county tax payers. Under the new system it would be borne solely by our small, local tax base. Commissioner Thompson's proposal is currently under consideration by the full County Board.

I believe the Town will oppose this proposal and I encourage you to contact the Frederick County Commissioners to express your own opinion.

Thank you for your time,

Chris Staiger

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