Public Hearing Held On Wicomico’s Proposed Tax Rate

SALISBURY – Disagreements over a proposed real property tax increase highlighted a public hearing in Wicomico County this week.

This year, Wicomico County Executive Bob Culver submitted a proposed budget to the Wicomico County Council for fiscal year 2021 that includes a tax rate of .9286 per $100 of assessed value. Since that rate is 2% higher than the constant yield rate – or the tax rate that would generate the same amount of revenue as the previous year – the legislative body this week held a virtual public hearing for county residents.

“As the county’s assessable base increases, the constant yield rate decreases,” Council Administrator Laura Hurley said. “By Maryland law, if the real property tax rate is set above the hypothetical constant yield rate, a public hearing must be held.”

In fiscal year 2021, the estimated real property assessable base will increase by 2.65%, from $6,266,202,145 to $6,432,565,170. If Wicomico County maintains the current tax rate of .9346 per $100 of assessed value, real property tax revenues will increase by 2.65% resulting in $1,554,829 of new real property tax revenues.

To fully offset the effect of increasing assessments, the real property tax rate should be reduced to $.9104, the constant yield tax rate. The county, however, is considering not reducing its real property tax rate enough to fully offset increasing assessments, and instead, has proposed a real property tax rate of .9286, which will generate $1,170,727 in additional property tax revenues.

Mardela Springs resident Kenneth Robinson wrote to the council this week proposing a property tax decrease for residents on the west side of Wicomico County. He pointed out that the Mardela Middle and High School renovation project – originally placed in the county’s capital improvement plan for fiscal years 2021-2025 – had since been removed from the planning document, and a bridge replacement on Barren Creek Road, which was washed out in 2016, had yet to be constructed.

“At the Sharptown town hall meeting in September of 2019, County Executive Bob Culver stated money was budgeted and construction would be started by spring of 2020, and yet we still see no progress on this project,” he wrote. “The other two bridges that washed out there were fixed immediately, even though one of them was a road that only had one structure on it, an American Legion. Again, this is unacceptable.”

Lastly, Robinson pointed out that property owners near Porter Mill Road had been adversely affected by the construction of an agricultural storage tank that holds waste from poultry renderings.

“On the west side of Wicomico County, there has been a three-million-gallon chicken gut soup tank constructed and put into operation, which would make our property taxes less because our property values in this area have drastically been reduced by the construction of this monster,” he wrote. “Due to the reasons above, I hope you take into consideration all of these factors before increasing our property taxes on the forgotten part of Wicomico County.”

Salisbury resident Riley Smith expressed his frustration with spending habits in both Salisbury and Wicomico County. He said a real property tax increase should not be considered as residents contend with the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Just the political nerve to consider increased spending of another person’s money in general then adding a tax increase in the midst of a pandemic is relentless, self-serving and disgraceful,” he wrote.

The county council is expected to adopt a tax rate at its next meeting, scheduled for June 2 at 6 p.m.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.