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Board reverses position on tax rate hike

Richard D. L. Fulton

(4/8) "Next time it might really have to go up (if a tax increase is not enacted in 2013)." - Mayor Donald N. Briggs.

The Emmitsburg Board of Commissioners reversed direction once again in the effort to adopt a budget for fiscal year 2013 at their May 21 meeting by officially adopting a previously rejected tax rate that essentially will amount to a tax break for many residents.

The current tax rate is 0.36 cents per $100 worth of assessed real estate value. The state Department of Assessments and Taxation (DAT) recommended a tax rate of 0.4265 cents per $100 of assessed real estate value in order to maintain current levels of property tax collection.

According to (DAT), the drop in property values would result in a reduction of revenue for the town if it did not raise its real estate tax rate.

Following debate over both rates, the budget submitted by Mayor Don Briggs and town staff on May 7 was prepared based on a property tax rate of 0.4265 as directed by the Board of Commissioners back in April.

However, on May 21 the board voted unanimously to adopt a tax rate of 0.36 cents per $100 of real estate value after reducing or reallocating the proposed budget by $120,000 – enough to avoid the need for a tax rate increase.

The reductions resulted from changes to staff expenses and contract and capital expenditure allocations. Two large one time expenditures, state mandated storm water management mapping and joining the countywide communications network, will now be funded from the rainy day fund not the general fund. Commissioners were reluctant to raise tax rates to cover expenses that wouldn’t repeat in future years.

Many Emmitsburg property owners will actually pay less in real estate taxes in 2013 as a result of the board’s decisions.

While the tax rate for fiscal year 2013, beginning July 1, 2012, is now set, the Board will continue to finalize the revised budget at the June 4 town meeting.

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