Prince George’s Takes Steps to Address Budget Deficit

October 8, 2014

Lower than expected tax revenues have forced Prince George’s County to institute “modest hiring and funding freezes” across county government.  As reported by the Washington Post,

Prince George’s is facing a $59 million deficit that, if left unchecked, could swell and jeopardize the county’s bond rating, budget administrator Thomas Himler said during a briefing Tuesday with the County Council.

The administration has begun to reduce overtime for emergency workers, withhold funding for various programs and cancel recruitment classes for the county’s police and fire departments. Those measures could save $18 million by the end of fiscal year 2015.

Mr. Himler indicated that typically tax revenues come in higher than what is estimated in the county’s budget, but this year revenue has been lower.

“It went the other way,” he said, adding that unemployment, slow wage growth and high mortgage foreclosure rates have contributed to the shortfall in Prince George’s.

The Prince George’s County Council has indicated its willingness to work with the Administration to renegotiate some reductions.

Assessment Workgroup Discusses Exemptions, Physical Inspection and Accuracy

October 7, 2014

The State Department of Assessments and Taxation Property Assessment Workgroup held its fifth meeting on September 29th to brief the full workgroup on property tax exemptions and hold meetings of the physical inspection and timely property pickup subcommittees.

The property tax exemption presentation focused mainly on court decisions that have established the parameters for determining which properties are eligible for a charitable or educational property tax exemption. The presentation also reviewed SDAT’s property tax exemption procedures. Now that the full Workgroup has been briefed on this topic, the Tax Credits and Exemptions Subcommittee will hold its first meeting on October 17 at 10 am to begin examining discrepancies in the calculation of certain tax credits and exemptions and approaches for improving accuracy.

The physical inspections and timely property pickup subcommittees have blended their discussions and have focused on technological improvements to assist with the assessment process, better communication between the state and local offices, and greater accountability with the data that is provided to SDAT.

The fourth subcommittee on personal property and vendor services will hold its first meeting on October 20 at 10 am.

The next meeting of the full Workgroup will be held on October 17 from 1 pm to 4 pm.  All workgroup and subcommittee meetings are held at the Maryland Department of Transportation Headquarters at 7201 Corporate Center Drive, Hanover, MD 21076.

Additional information about the Property Assessment Workgroup can be found on SDAT’s website and on Conduit Street.

Local Income Tax Case Identified as a “Case That Matters” For State and Local Government

October 6, 2014

As reported by Governing, the State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) has identified the case of Maryland State Comptroller of the Treasury v. Brian Wynne as a “case that matters” for state and local government.  This case will be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court on November 12, 2014.

Comptroller v. Wynne

A couple living in Howard County, Md., earned income in multiple states, but faced a county tax for money earned outside of Maryland. The question before the court is whether the U.S. Constitution allows a state or locality to tax all the income of its residents, including income earned in other states. In general, states provide a tax credit for earnings from other states. The couple believes they are owed a credit for both state and county taxes. The Maryland comptroller says that a partial credit is warranted for state, but not county taxes.

The SLLC files amicus briefs with the Supreme Court on behalf of the National Governors Association, the Council of State Governments, the National Association of Counties, the National League of Cities and the International City/County Management Association.

MACo has been following this case closely and joined with the International Municipal Lawyers Association and several other stakeholders to support a “friend of the court” brief urging the US Supreme Court to overturn state court holdings and defend county income tax structures that have been in place for decades.

Additional coverage of the case, including the decision and briefs filed, can be found on Conduit Street. also recently published an article about the case.

Baltimore City Council Considers Providing Tax Credit For Urban Farmers

October 1, 2014

As reported by the Baltimore Sun, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is lending her support to legislation sponsored by Baltimore City Council Member William “Pete” Welch to provide a tax credit for urban farmers.

In legislation pending in a City Council committee, Welch is seeking a 90 percent break on property taxes for urban farmers who grow and sell at least $5,000 of fruit and vegetables a year. The credits, which must be approved by the city’s Office of Sustainability, are good for five years, but can be renewed for a total of 10 years, according to the bill.

Welch has said he hopes the legislation will help eliminate the city’s so-called food deserts in which some neighborhoods have no access to healthy food nearby.

The Mayor held a press conference today in support of the legislation, which will heard in committee when the Council convenes this evening.

Kevin Harris, a spokesman for Rawlings-Blake, said the new bill is needed because several urban farms in Baltimore are smaller than five acres and therefore do not qualify for a state-authorized tax break.

MACo Adopts 2015 Legislative Initiatives

October 1, 2014

At its October 1 meeting, the MACo Legislative Committee formally adopted the proposed initiatives for the 2015 session, a work product of the Association’s Initiatives Subcommittee.  The Initiatives Subcommittee met through the summer to refine and focus a list of 25 initiatives into no more than four, as required by the Association’s bylaws. With the upcoming election in November and potential changes in local elected officials serving on the Legislative Committee, the Legislative Committee will discuss and approve the initiatives again in January.

The 2015 Initiatives are a very proactive agenda which will span across all budget and policy committees of the General Assembly.  MACo will continue to advocate for local transportation funding and seek greater cooperation and investment in our schools. MACo has also responded to county concerns in other policy areas, adopting initiatives to address the growing drug problem confronting each county and build an efficient and effective pretrial system.

The items adopted as legislative initiatives are as follows:

Local Transportation Funding Restoration – With the recent expansion of transportation revenues, it is time for local governments to again play a more significant role in the State’s transportation funding plan. Many new State projects, including transit, have been added into the Consolidated Transportation Plan, while local governments have continued to struggle to maintain and preserve their roadways. MACo believes all avenues should be explored to restore local funding – the use of federal resources, the reallocation of funds should projects be delayed, and the reallocation of state highway user revenues back to local governments over time. MACo urges State policymakers to take the necessary steps to restore HUR and local roadway infrastructure.

Cooperation and Investment in Education – Counties have concerns that strict school funding laws may deter county investment of additional funding above required minimums and stem cooperation between county governments and school boards. Reducing funding disincentives may encourage county support for innovative pilot programs, and more fairly recognize short-term needs or investments as outside perpetual mandates. A smarter system for budget submissions to the State could mesh with county and school board budget processes, giving them a meaningful opportunity to consider reducing overall costs through joint administration of programs and other collaborations.

Broad Tools to Tackle the Drug Crisis – Drug-related deaths and crises continue to rise in epidemic proportions. Counties in all regions need support and coordination among state and local agencies, with appropriate local flexibility, to bridge remaining gaps. A customized approach is required as the diverse agents will require different forms of assistance. First responders will benefit from additional training and equipment. Public health providers will benefit from support to retain and expand treatment and preventative services. Citizens will benefit from increased access to life-saving medications and innovative policies to protect their individual and collective well-being. MACo advocates for comprehensive legislation and budget initiatives to address the growing drug problem confronting each county and the unique needs of their communities by providing broader and better tools.

Efficient and Effective Pretrial Functions – Counties urge the state to adopt effective measures to improve pretrial services in District Courts. A one-time $10 million earmarked to provide court-mandated counsel offers nothing more than a temporary effort. District Courts are seeing process backups, local jails face housing challenges, and counties anxiously await the unknown mid-year cost burden. An effective and efficient pretrial system requires investment in properly trained staff, improved communication technology, better tools for risk assessment, and assurances that the State will back up this new commitment. Counties urge the State to deliver a plan to resolve this vexing issue without overloading local jails with longer term pretrial holdings, or unfunded mandates to support programs or employees totally outside their control.

Frederick County Alters Development Fees For Areas Near Overcrowded Schools

September 26, 2014

A September 24 Frederick News-Post article reported that the Frederick County Board of Commissioners has approved increasing a variety of development mitigation fees for projects that would add new residential homes to areas with schools that over-capacity or near over-capacity.  The article noted the exact amount of the fee varies based on type of housing and type of school.  The article also explained that the fee was created in response to building moratoria created by school capacity adequate public facility ordinances.

The changes will lift the fee in most cases but lower the amount paid when single-family houses and town houses are constructed close to over-capacity middle schools. The fees are based on the cost of building new classroom space and the average number of students generated by each housing type.

The article also noted that some officials and advocates do not believe the mitigation fee is effective.

However, local education advocate Janice Spiegel said the fee will fall far short of meeting school construction needs and is setting the county up to worsen its overcrowding problems. Spiegel looked at a list of current residential projects and calculated that they will furnish the county with more than $160 million in impact and school mitigation fees. However, this amount is about $110 million shy of what the county would need to build or expand schools for students moving into these new houses, she said.  …

Kelly Weaver, the county’s assistant budget officer, said Spiegel’s calculations don’t take into account the money provided by the state for school construction. But Spiegel said the county shouldn’t bank on money from the state, which can be an unpredictable funding source.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Announces 2014 TIGER Grants

September 23, 2014

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Fox recently announced 2014 Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants  totaling $6oo million for 72 projects across the country. From the Department’s press release,

The Department received 797 eligible applications from 49 states, U.S. territories and the District of Columbia, an increase from the 585 applications received in 2013.  Overall, applicants requested 15 times the $600 million available for the program, or $9.5 billion for needed transportation projects.

Projects funded through this round of grants support the following goals:

  • Improving Access to Jobs and Creating New “Ladders of Opportunity
  • Reversing neglect by repairing U.S. infrastructure, enhancing quality of life and commerce
  • Supporting Game-Changing Local Initiatives
  • Helping communities plan for the future

Maryland received approximately $16 million for 3 transit and 2 roadway projects.

  • South County Circulator – Funds will be used to purchase additional buses for the Oxen Hill and Branch Avenue circulator routes and demand service to meet the ever-increasing needs of a growing community, and to reduce congestion and over-crowding on the current system.
  • Howard Street Livable Communities – This Livable Communities project involves the demolition of existing worn out shelters and replacement of light rail and bus shelters in the busiest transit corridor in Baltimore City, located along Howard Street.
  • Westport Transit-Oriented Development – The City of Baltimore and the MTA will develop the Kent Street Plaza and Pedestrian Corridor to expand bus ridership and access to the existing light rail system, strengthening the economically distressed community and the Westport Waterfront Project.
  • Hanover Street Bridge Plan – The Hanover Street Bridge Multimodal Corridor Plan will create a corridor plan to identify feasible methods of rehabilitating or replacing the Hanover Street Bridge, a nearly 100-year old bridge that connects the City of Baltimore to the Port of Baltimore.
  • Fort Meade Multimodal Accessibility Project – The MD 175 Fort Meade Multimodal Accessibility Project is a road widening project that would upgrade MD 175 from an existing two-lane undivided arterial to a six-lane divided arterial, complete with a trail, sidewalks, and on-road bicycle facilities.


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