The Colmar Manor Town Council voted Tuesday to raise real property tax rates by 31 percent, a jump that keeps the town’s $1.52 million budget flat for the next year.
According to the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation, Colmar Manor has the highest property tax rate in the state of Maryland.
Daniel Baden, town manager and treasurer, said that assessed property values plummeted for fiscal year 2013. Real estate values dropped 31 percent from the last assessment in 2009.
“The council committed to a constant yield tax rate,” Baden said, meaning that the amount of money the town will collect will remain the same. But because the property values declined so steeply, he added there has to be a matching jump in rates to keep the budget constant.
Rebekah Lusk, an attorney whose family owns Port Towns Shopping Center in Colmar Manor, said she is concerned about what the high real estate taxes in Colmar Manor — $1.49 and $1.15 per $100 of assessed value for residential and commercial, respectively — could do to residents and businesses in the town.
“If you could review the budget and make some reductions or streamline, [the tax rate] could go down,” Lusk said to the council at a Tuesday public hearing on the budget. “Because we don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, and if [the tax rate] goes up, it’s going to affect businesses and residents,” by raising costs and possibly leading to vacancies in commercial and residential areas if the tax burden is too large.
The town relies on real estate taxes for about 65 percent of revenues, according to the town budget.
The budget also included $9,000 in raises for the mayor and council members. The raises were passed by the council in 2010, but could not go into effect until a new election, held in May.
Each of the four council members receives $6,000 each year, and the mayor receives $9,000, higher than elected officials in cities with comparable budgets. Cottage City’s five commissioners make $3,240 and in Landover Hills the mayor and council members receive stipends of $2,700 and $1,800, respectively.
“[The council] felt it was undercompensated for their time spent at all the meetings and town events and representing the town at other events,” Baden said of the 2010 decision, which was the only time in his 20 years working for the town, he said, that he could remember the council increasing their compensation.