Post Questions Tax Exemption For Universities

The Washington Post Editorial Board published “Universities shouldn’t be exempt from D.C. property taxes” last week, questioning the long-standing given that institutions of higher education enjoy exemption from (most) state, local and federal taxes. Opines The Post: 

The rationale for this long-standing policy is a wise one: namely, that these institutions seek to serve broad public needs, not provide a return on shareholder investment.

Yet, in modern times, that argument runs into the blunt fact that some institutions of higher education have morphed into economically impactful entities employing thousands of people, occupying hundreds of acres and investing endowments that sometimes surpass $1 billion[.]

Naturally, higher education institutions in the D.C. area have long fought (successfully) against proposals to assess them a local property tax. They argue that the schools provide substantial public services, such as generating economic activity, providing security, and running shuttle buses for students.  The Post responds:

As for the stimulus universities provide for the local economy, and the services they provide students, both are fair points — but it’s equally true that the universities’ ability to attract students in the first place depends in some measure on the city’s infrastructure and amenities, paid for by local households and businesses.

Tax-exempt properties accounted for 11% of the total assessable property tax base in Maryland as of January 2014 – and as much as 31.6% in Baltimore City. For more information about property tax exemptions in Maryland, see the Department of Legislative Services’ presentation, Property Tax Exemptions and Payments in Lieu of Taxes in Maryland.

Take the Lead on Reducing Tax Fraud

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Click for a map of current fraud alerts in Maryland and learn more about scams.

A survey on taxpayer identity theft aims to track government efforts to stop fraud.

As described by the Government Business Council, recent reports show that taxpayer identity theft is on the rise, with incident reports in the millions. The Council asks,

What do these trends mean for government agencies? In the fight on fraud, is your organization taking the lead or the backseat?

The Council has released a short research survey on fraud strategy for 2016 and beyond. You may follow this link to take the 5-min survey.

At this year’s MACo Summer Conference, Attorney General Brian Frosh, Deputy Comptroller Sharonne Bonardi, and AARP Maryland Associate Director Tammy Bresnahan will be sharing strategies for reducing identity theft in Maryland, and ways county governments can help victims of identity theft and tax fraud.

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:


WYPR Discusses Balancing Budgets, Growth & More With County Executive Glassman

Courtesy of Harford County Government

In a recent radio broadcast of Focus on the Counties, WYPR discusses balancing budgets, growth and more with Harford County Executive Barry Glassman.

Among the topics Tom takes up with the Harford County Executive are how he’s been handling water quality issues, managing the Susquehanna watershed and Harford County’s Chesapeake Bay shoreline, his efforts to foster both rural interests and suburban development, and Mr. Glassman’s passion for fiscal balance and efficiency in government.

Visit WYPR online to listen to the broadcast and click here to find out more about the Focus on the Counties series from WYPR.

$25M Road Grants – County Applications Due August 30

The Maryland Department of Transportation is making $4 million in grants available to Maryland counties, $2 million to Baltimore City, and $19 million to municipalities for roadway improvements. This Special Fund appropriation was included in the Budget Bill for Fiscal Year 2017, SB190, to supplement highway user revenues.

This supplemental amount is analogous to similar add-on distributions provided for in the fiscal 2016 budget. While the proposed fiscal 2017 budget included a meaningful increase in highway user revenues, the Maryland General Assembly’s final action was to merely “flat fund” the same amount as last year.

To accept the grant funds, local government officials must sign and return the one-page Transportation Grant Application Form no later than August 30, 2016.

According to the Maryland Department of Transportation press release, Governor Hogan stated,

One of my top priorities is investing in roads and bridges across the state. This funding is essential for local jurisdictions that depend on them for many long-overdue local road projects.
Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn stated,
We encourage you to get your applications in quickly so we can get this funding in your hands where it can make a difference for all Marylanders across the state.

Read Conduit Street’s previous coverage on the rise and fall of highway user revenues here.


800 Attend Port Covington TIF Hearing; Chair Affirms No Vote Anytime Soon

Last night’s Baltimore City Council hearing on Sagamore Development’s controversial tax increment financing (TIF) request for Port Covington attracted 800 concerned attendees and lasted four hours before the Taxation, Finance and Economic Development Committee recessed. The hearing had to be relocated to the War Memorial Building’s large auditorium to accommodate the large crowds. Affirmed Committee Chair Carl Stokes,

We are not going to vote tonight. We are not going to vote next week.

Public testimony covered topics such as affordable housing, jobs, labor negotiations and profit sharing. The Baltimore Business Journal reports,

Much of the testimony centered on requests to strengthen the legislation to include citywide community benefits and job guarantees as well as a better understanding of the complex and lengthy 535-page TIF application.

Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank owns Sagamore Development, which is requesting the $660 million TIF to support its Port Covington development.  The 266-acre, $5.5 billion redevelopment in South Baltimore will hold Under Armour’s new corporate headquarters. Plans include:

  • 5.5 million square feet of office space,
  • about 14,000 residential units,
  • retail space,
  • two hotels,
  • 40 acres of parks,
  • 17 new streets,
  • an internal trolley system, and
  • Maryland Transit Administration Light Rail extension.

Sagamore Development Vice President Caroline Paff reported that the project will spur 42,000 jobs over 25 years and then install 25,000 permanent jobs at the site. Paff testified,

Under Armour has aggressive growth plans. And it’s either grow here or grow somewhere else. All of us want that growth right here in Baltimore City … We are asking for $535 million to help leverage a $5.5 billion deal — without anything else, that’s a good deal.

Chair Stokes announced that the hearing will resume on August 3 at 5 pm.

Baltimore Seeks To Raise Water Rates – Funds Needed To Invest In Infrastructure

Baltimore City officials plan to request Board of Estimates approval to raise water rates by 9.9 percent each year through fiscal 2018 and sewer rates by 9 percent each year through fiscal 2018. Additionally, they plan to transition from a quarterly to monthly billing cycle, and eliminate minimum-use charges for properties that use minimal water. Finally, they plan to propose adding a new account management fee that will be the same set fee for all accounts, and an infrastructure fee assessed by meter size. Reports the Baltimore Sun:

City officials say the rate increases are needed to finish the ‘replacement of all residential and commercial water meters in both Baltimore City and Baltimore County.’ … The increases also will help the city comply with federal and state mandates ‘protecting public health and environment, as well as investing in our aging underground water and sewer systems,’ officials said.

Baltimore has embarked on a six-year, $1.3 billion capital improvement plan for water projects that includes replacing water mains, covering open water reservoirs and rehabbing pumping stations. The city is also on a six-year, $701 million improvement plan for wastewater projects that includes massive upgrades at the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant.

A public hearing on the new charges is expected to be scheduled for 9 am on August 31.



City, County Leaders on Local Infrastructure Investment: “We Should Be Doing More”

Former Secretary of Transportation LaHood: “we’re selling ourselves short.”

The National League of Cities (NLC) announced that former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and local government leaders from across the nation, including National Association of Counties President Commissioner Sallie Clark, advocated for local government infrastructure funding at a Republican National Convention policy briefing on July 19, 2016. Secretary LaHood opened the session by arguing that the federal government should raise the gas tax to generate more money for infrastructure investment.

NLC CEO and Executive Director Clarence Anthony stressed that local government leaders highly prioritize preserving tax-exemption for municipal bonds, which cuts infrastructure investment costs. He stated,

“We are going to both the Republican and Democratic conventions” because local governments “need to be partners with the next president of the United States, whoever that will be. We need the candidates to understand that we must make infrastructure a priority for America.”


It’s a Trap! 10 Tricks Targeting Your Identity and Information

Maryland’s Attorney General Brian Frosh will speak with MACo Conference attendees about how he is seeking to help victims of identity theft.

Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the country, affecting nearly ten million Americans a year — and Marylanders are not immune.

Identity thieves may target older adults whose social isolation, loneliness, and memory loss make them particularly vulnerable. Examples of identity theft include when a thief uses your personal identifying information to open credit accounts in your name or to evade criminal liability.

At this year’s MACo Summer Conference, hear ways that the State is seeking to help victims of identity theft address their problems, and to help all consumers protect themselves from identity thieves.

On Friday, August 19, 2016 from 1–2pm at the Roland Powell Convention Center, county officials will learn advice to share with their constituents about how to protect themselves from ID thieves using, or continuing to use, your personal information, and how to address some of the issues that identity theft causes, such as dealing with credit card companies or collection agencies.

Sponsored by: M4A, The Maryland Association of Area Agencies on Aging


  • The Honorable Brian E. Frosh, Attorney General of Maryland
  • Sharonne Bonardi, Deputy Director, Maryland Office of the Comptroller
  • Tammy Bresnahan, Director of Advocacy, AARP Maryland

Moderator: The Honorable James N. Mathias, Jr. Maryland Senate

Date: Friday, August 19, 2016

Time: 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm

Place: Roland E Powell Convention Center, Ocean City, Maryland

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:


Baltimore County Earns Triple-A Bond Rating

Fitch Ratings, a global leader in research and credit ratings, has assigned a AAA rating to the 2016 series of Baltimore County’s taxable general obligation bonds. The rating agency also affirmed the rating of several county bonds.

According to an article from Business Wire:

The bonds, which are expected to sell through negotiation on July 20th, are being issued to partially fund the unfunded present or liability of the County under the portion of the Employees’ Retirement System of Baltimore County closed to new membership effective as of July 1, 2007. The proceeds of the bonds are expected to be used to purchase investments for the benefit of the pension plan.

Read the full article for more information.

Barbara Zektick Joins MACo Policy Team

BZektickMACo is pleased to announce the hiring of Barbara Zektick, Esq., as Associate Director, a new member of MACo’s policy team. She joined the office staff today, and will be representing county governments on a wide range of policy issues – from fiscal and taxation topics to transportation.

Ms. Zektick has extensive background in both state and local government, and has served as a public sector advocate for years in Annapolis. She worked for Baltimore City government for more than five years, serving as policy advocate in state legislative matters, and then rising to leadership posts with the City’s Department of Transportation. She most recently served as the Department of Transportation’s General Counsel, where she oversaw and led a variety of efforts – legislative outreach, rights-of-way management, contracts and procurement, and legal advice.

Previously, Ms. Zektick worked for the Maryland Department for Transportation, initially piloting Transit Oriented Development efforts and legislation, and then moving into a more formal policy role in the Department’s Annapolis offices.

She has a J.D. from American University, and a bachelor of arts degree from the Johns Hopkins University.