Resident Plans To Lead Tax Offset Petition

OCEAN CITY – An Ocean City taxpayer is organizing a campaign to persuade state legislators to mandate tax offsets for Worcester County’s municipalities.

Carol Krimm, who lives in Frederick, Md. and owns property in the resort, is putting together a petition drive to request a state law forcing Worcester County to reduce county taxes on Ocean City residents.

“This is grassroots. We’re starting from scratch,” Krimm said.

The petition would request that local lawmakers introduce a bill requiring all Maryland counties enact a tax differential.

According to Krimm, 17 of Maryland’s 23 counties already have some kind of tax differential or tax offset ensuring that a municipality’s taxpayers do not pay taxes to both the municipality and the county for duplicated services.

Maryland law provides that a county may establish tax differentials, but does not require them.

“Nobody’s going to volunteer to do this in Worcester County,” said Krimm. “It’d be nice if it was mandated in state law.”

Krimm would also like to see the county added to a law preventing local governing bodies from imposing taxes on municipal property owners if the municipality provides services.

The county does have a low homestead tax cap limiting resident homeowners to paying taxes on 103 percent of the new value of their homes after a reassessment. The homestead tax cap does not apply to vacation and rental houses, however.

During the county’s public budget hearing, Krimm urged the County Commissioners to reduce the tax burden on Ocean City taxpayers.

“I thought I had to make the good faith effort first before we do the petition,” Krimm said this week.

The ommissioners, however, did not include a tax differential in the recently completed fiscal year 2008 budget.

Even if they had, there would be no guarantee that the differential would be in place in future years, Krimm said. State legislation is the best option for the taxpayers of Ocean City, she feels.

“Property taxes now are eating us alive,” Krimm said.

Over the past several years, property value assessments have continued to rise in Ocean City as resort real estate has become more and more valuable.

“They’re paying for duplication of services. It doesn’t matter if you’re a second home taxpayer or a resident,” said Krimm.

Services provided by both Ocean City and Worcester County include police, planning and zoning, parks and public works.

Krimm said the county would have to cope with losing the revenue from Ocean City by “facing up to the hard reality” and looking at their budget more closely.

“They’ve just been raking the money in hand over fist,” Krimm said.

Krimm also questioned why the county does not drop the tax rate to the constant yield rate, which is the rate at which the county will generate the same amount of revenue as the previous year. The constant yield rate for Worcester County in fiscal year 2008 is 60.5 cents per $100 of assessed value. The tax rate held steady this year at 70 cents per $100 of assessed value.

Krimm will introduce her petition drive at the Little Salisbury annual meeting this weekend. The membership may or may not vote to support the effort, said Little Salisbury Homeowners Association President Bette Phillips. The Little Salisbury Board has not taken any position on the matter.

Ocean City’s County Commissioner Louise Gulyas declined to comment on tax differentials this week.

County Commissioner Linda Busick said, “I think we should just keep it the way it is. It’s their choice to have a second residence here.”