Charles County residents have no authority to petition tax increase, officials say
CHARLES COUNTY, Maryland: Charles County residents had hoped to fight a property tax increase by subjecting it to a veto referendum. However, last month Maryland Assistant State Attorney General William Varga said that the property tax increase, a public general law, is not subject to veto referenda in the same way that other local ordinances and laws are.
County Attorney Roger Fink reiterated the state attorney general's comment, "It's a (state) mandated act for setting the tax rate … and not subject to the referendum process." Varga noted that he did not know how Charles County residents that oppose the tax could petition it to referendum.
However, local petition organizers, La Plata attorney Kurt Wolfgang and Waldorf pastor Mike Phillips, continue to search for support within the county to bring to a vote the county commissioner's decision to maintain the property tax rate at its current level. The residential real property tax rate is $1.026 per $100 of assessed value and the personal property tax rate on business real estate is $2.405 per $100.
Wolfgang argued that a court of appeals case, Board of Supervisors of Elections of Anne Arundel County v. Rayburn H. Smallwood, supports their right to take taxes to referendum.
Should the petition be allowed to move forward, petitioners need to collect approximately 8,500 signatures by Aug. 9, 2009. However, half of the total must be submitted by July before the group can continue collecting signatures.