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.