Berlin Scared To Support Tax Differential Concept

BERLIN – Citing the need to preserve Berlin’s good relationship with county elected officials, the Berlin Mayor and Council this week declined to support a tax differential for municipalities in Worcester County.

“All those services again are provided at the county level so municipal taxpayers are taxed twice,” Carol Krimm, a resident of Frederick, who owns a second home in Ocean City, told the Berlin council Monday.

Krimm began a petition this spring to ask the Maryland General Assembly to require tax differentials or offsets across all 23 Maryland counties, which would reduce the amount of property tax paid by municipal residents. Krimm contends those taxpayers are paying for duplicated services such as police protection, public works, and so on,

According to Krimm, a legislative assistant to Frederick County Del. Galen Clagett, 17 Maryland counties already provide some kind of tax relief for municipal property owners.

However, the council was not persuaded.

“I think it’s something that deserves some looking into, but based on the concept itself, no,” said Council Vice President Gee Williams.

Worcester County has only reached a position to give substantial financial support to the towns in recent years, said Williams, and Berlin has been able to proceed with projects the town could not otherwise afford through county grants.

“The county, financially, has been a tremendous help to this town,” said Berlin Mayor Tom Cardinale. “I wouldn’t want to jeopardize that. The commissioners in this county, they have been very, very helpful. …. I will do nothing to jeopardize that.”

The council was also protective of the fairly new close working relationship developed with the County Commissioners and county staff.

“I would hate to do anything to harm that because we need them,” Councilman Elroy Brittingham, said. “They’ve been very good to us.”

Berlin received an unrestricted grant of $350,000 from the County Commissioners for fiscal year 2008.

“This is just a hedge for your property tax payers in your municipality that they will get a set-off, a differential,” Krimm said.

Ocean City, she said, has asked the Maryland Municipal League to take the idea to the General Assembly, as it has requested for the last four years, according to Krimm.

“This is for municipal taxpayers. It doesn’t matter if you’re a resident or a non-resident,” she said.

While many talk about easing the burden on taxpayers, few act on it, Krimm said. “Nobody steps up to the plate and does anything. It’s just lip service,” she said.

Williams said, “I think it would backfire here. In concept it sounds great. In practicality it’s a lot more than meets the eye. I don’t think this is something we need to be doing with our limited resources right now. We’ve got plenty on our plate which is our responsibility.”

Councilwoman Paula Lynch asked Krimm if she had approached local delegates to the General Assembly.

Krimm replied that she had spoken to Del. Jim Mathias and he had asked her to approach the towns, looking for support.

“That’s called passing the buck,” Lynch said.

“I don’t think so,” said Krimm.

Krimm was not discouraged by the council’s reaction.

“I think the council needs to hear from their constituents in the municipality,” Krimm said. “I think that’s what they’re waiting for.”