The Maryland Association of Counties (MACo) presented its 2014 Legislative Priorities before the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee on January 9, 2014. Priorities include:
- Transportation Funding Restoration,
- Empowering School Board/County Partnerships,
- Leverage Bay Restoration Funds to Target Failing Septics, and
- Collaborative Public Safety Radio Systems
Testifying for MACo were the Association’s Second Vice President and Washington County Commissioner John Barr, Wicomico County Budget Director Andrew Mackel, and MACo Legislative Director Andrea Mansfield. Commissioner Barr and Mr. Mackel focused their comments on the need to restore Highway User Revenues to local governments. Local governments used to receive 30% of these revenues, now they receive less than 10%. Mr. Mackel also provided an economic overview of Wicomico County.
Ms. Mansfield spoke of the income and property tax revenue challenges some counties are facing and MACo’s remaining three initiatives. From MACo’s testimony:
Although income tax revenue is expected to grow slightly, mostly due to increases in capital gains, high unemployment and little improvement in the job market in a number of counties gives little hope of significant recovery.
While beginning to stabilize, the property tax base has been in unprecedented decline over the past several years. For the group of properties recently reassessed, residential property values rose by 1.3% statewide. However, residential property values actually declined in 19 of 24 jurisdictions. The same has occurred for commercial properties. The value of commercial properties increased by 16.3% statewide, but 10 of 24 jurisdictions saw a decline in these values. This suggests that a large number of counties have a few more difficult budget years ahead.