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Thurmont lowers property tax rate

Ingrid Mezo

The Thurmont Town Commission voted Tuesday to lower the property tax rate for fiscal 2006 to 27 cents per every $100 of assessed property value, down from 27.3 cents in the current year.

The new rate is above the 26-cent constant yield, the rate the town would have had to impose to collect the same amount of taxes next year as it did this year.

But by keeping the tax rate at a relatively low level for Frederick County when compared to the constant yield of 64.2 cents for Frederick city and 35.2 cents for Emmitsburg, Thurmont may have to cut the town budget elsewhere.

Mayor Martin Burns did not feel there would be much of a problem, however, since some of the town's vacant employment positions would take several months to fill.

"You guys know how long it takes to find employees, so there's a cost savings there of that we can absorb and make it work," Burns said. "This is in no way, shape, or form going to take away from the hiring for town positions. We're just delaying the hiring and passing the savings along to residents."

If those positions remain open on July 1, the start of fiscal 2006, the town would save a quarter of a year's salary.

But should the town run into problems due to the decreased property tax rate, the commissioners agreed they would transfer money from elsewhere in the budget.

Also, commissioners decided to set the impact fee -- the amount developers pay per new house they build to help offset the impact new residents have on a town -- at $7,660, effective July 1.

Commissioner Glenn Muth expressed concern that the impact fee might discourage development.

"If I were a businessman with a business with 10 individual property units, that's $100,000," Muth said. "That might be enough to make me reconsider developing in this area."

"That may not necessarily be a bad thing," Burns said. "They have been sucking us dry for the past few years at the expense of the community." He added that he did not see a single builder at the meeting to represent development concerns.

Commissioner Bill Blakeslee said he thought that developers are prepared for that type of expense. "I don't think we'll keep a business out," he said. "At the same time, the guy who has the most power to build homes here took us to court, and the town had to absorb the legal fees."

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