Saving senior residents money on their property taxes has united two oft-opposed Frederick County lawmakers.
Councilmen Jerry Donald (D) and Kirby Delauter (R) unveiled a joint proposal to expand the county’s senior property tax credit at the council meeting Tuesday. The agreement marks a compromise between competing proposals introduced separately earlier this year.
Delauter and Donald both expressed support for the soon-to-be amended legislation, which incorporates elements of each councilman’s legislation with the shared goal of strengthening the county’s senior tax credit supplement.
The county tax credit works in tandem with the Maryland Homeowners’ Tax Credit Program, which ensures that low-income homeowners of all ages don’t pay more than a certain percentage of their income in property taxes. Frederick County’s senior credit supplement offers another tax credit equal to 20 percent of eligible residents’ tax bills.
Residents must be 65 or older with a maximum $70,000 household income to qualify under current eligibility requirements.
The compromise legislation raises the maximum income limit to $80,000, a balance between the $75,000 Donald proposed and Delauter’s $85,000 threshold. Low-income senior households, those who earn $30,000 or less, would also see their savings double from 20 to 40 percent of their tax bills, a component of Donald’s original bill.
Other requirements — that net worth cannot exceed $200,000, not including property value and retirement savings accounts, and credits apply up to the first $300,000 of assessed property value — remain unchanged. Delauter’s bill proposed raising both of these requirements, which would have necessitated adding county staff to vet each applicant’s value, according to the county finance division.
The finance office analyzed each bill’s impact on county property tax revenue assuming the current 23 percent participation rate up to a maximum 100 percent of eligible senior households. An analysis of the new compromise proposal was not available Wednesday, according to Diane Fox, director of the county’s treasury office.
Fox noted that the new estimates would likely not differ dramatically from the prior calculations for decreased property tax revenue, which created a revenue shortfall of $242,328 to $1.24 million, depending on participation rate.
County Executive Jan Gardner (D) originally backed Donald’s bill in a memo dated March 15. She offered support for the compromise legislation in a phone interview Wednesday, noting it still favors Donald’s proposal and its benefits for the lowest-income seniors.
Just over 2,200 senior households in Frederick County benefited from property tax credits in fiscal 2017, saving a combined $623,370.06 in fiscal 2017, according to Fox.
The council will vote to amend one of the original bills based on the proposed compromise at an upcoming meeting, although an exact date has not been set, according to Ragen Cherney, the council’s chief of staff.
Read the article on the Frederick News Post here.