Howard County Executive Ken Ulman is proposing a countywide fire tax of 17.6 cents per $100 of assessed property value in his fiscal year 2013 budget. The change would increase the fire tax rate by 52 percent for the western part of the county and 30 percent for residents in the east, if approved by the county council.
The increase would largely go toward funding 41 new positions to staff the Glenwood Fire Station, which will open this year in Western Howard County, and a new paramedic unit for the Ellicott City fire station, according to an article in the Howard County Times.
Raymond S. Wacks, the Howard County Budget Administrator, said the increase was needed to offset revenue losses from declining real estate assessments. He said even with $22 million in reserve for the fire department, their budget would be in deficit at the end of FY 2013 if the rate wasn't raised.
On April 30, six people testified about the fire tax at the council's budget hearing, according to the Howard County Times. Two supported the increase; four were against, according to the article.
Wacks said the fire tax is estimated to generate $63.1 million in FY 2012. In 2013, he said, that number would increase to $78.1 million.
During a work session on Wednesday, Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services Chief Bill Goddard said he had requested an increase to 20 cents per $100 of assessed value, which was more than Ulman was willing to approve, according to the Howard County Times article.
The Budget Office’s summary also explained the need for the increase due to lost revenue from property taxes. The summary claimed the increase would be minor due to decreasing home assessment values.
“For instance, a typical home in Columbia was assessed for tax purposes at $512,200 in 2008 and is assessed at $396,000 currently,” noted the summary. “That home would have paid $694 in fire taxes in 2008 and would be charged $697 under this proposal.”
The current fire tax rates are $11.55 cents per $100 of assessed value in the western part of the county and $13.55 in the east.
What do you think of the fire tax increase?