ANNAPOLIS – In response to complaints from citizens about County Executive Rushern Baker III’s budget proposal, Senator C. Anthony Muse has drafted legislation to cap property tax increases unless the school system cannot fund its maintenance of effort (MOE) requirement. The county must find a way to generate revenue without working around a cap on […]
ANNAPOLIS – In response to complaints from citizens about County Executive Rushern Baker III’s budget proposal, Senator C. Anthony Muse has drafted legislation to cap property tax increases unless the school system cannot fund its maintenance of effort (MOE) requirement.
The county must find a way to generate revenue without working around a cap on property taxes created by an initiative, the Tax Reform Initiative by Marylanders (TRIM). The tax cap exists in the county’s charter mandating that any proposed property tax increase be approved by citizen vote, Muse said.
“What I did was craft a bill with what I think is a win-win situation,” Muse said. “All of us, including the county executive, campaigned on the promise that we would not overturn TRIM. The citizens would have to do that. So my word is on the line with everyone else’s.”
Muse said he also crafted the bill because of the loophole Senate Bill 848 created for the property tax raises. The bill gives the county government the authority to raise property taxes under specified circumstances in order to meet the county’s per-pupil funding requirements.
“This is not what we intended Senate Bill 848 to be used for, which (citizens) are interpreting removes TRIM,” Muse said.
Muse said his bill is a win-win for both the county government and his citizens because in a circumstance where MOE funding cannot be reached because of an economic downturn, the bill would allow the county to raise taxes to a level that would help them meet the requirements, but no more than is required.
“It does not do what his proposal is doing. His proposal is saying above and beyond and in an unlimited way and for a duration of time that is forever,” Muse said. “That we can now come back and, in spite of TRIM, we can raise taxes above and beyond. I don’t think you need to put that on people at this point. I think this is bad for our county.”
Muse said citizens are currently dealing with decreasing property values, foreclosures and other issues and they do not need any more pressure to keep their homes.
Many homes in Prince George’s County are undervalued and citizens are under water on payments on their homes, Muse said. If more taxes are added to the payments constituents already have to make, he said, it will be difficult for citizens to continue to recover.
“This is devastating. The timing is wrong,” Muse said. “I hear the county executive when he says we need to invest in schools. But I also hear the voice of the citizens when they say ‘we aren’t making it.’”
At a County Council public hearing, county resident Joyce Thorpe said she used to be a proud resident of the county until she saw the increases in property and personal taxes for the citizens.
“Prince George’s County is the number one county for foreclosures in Maryland. Homeowners are struggling to hold on to their homes,” Thorpe said.
Bringing gaming back to Maryland, building Fed Ex field and bringing MGM to the county are all supposed to be funding the school system, Thorpe said, but it does not seem the funding is being used for the school system.
“Once again, we are being educated to death. I’m asking to stop the tax and spend mentality and find other ways to close the budget shortfall,” Thorpe said. “Please stop the education explanation for taxing and spending.”
Scott Peterson, spokesman for Baker, said the county administration will continue to move forward with their efforts to fund the school system.
“We continue to move forward and share the merits of this important investment in our school, our children and our county,” Peterson said.