The county that pays the highest property tax rate in Maryland could be faced with higher taxes under a new proposal.
The Prince George's County Council is considering getting rid of the property tax cap.
Supporters of the proposal say the cap is racist and was created to keep the majority Black county from moving forward.
Opponents say removing it is ill-timed given the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Three council members opposed to the change held a virtual town hall Tuesday night.
“When you talk about increasing what the bottom line is that people have to pay, you don't make that proposal in the middle of a pandemic,” Councilwoman Jolene Ivey said.
Based on wealth and property value, Prince Georgians pay the highest property tax rate in Maryland and D.C. by some 30%.
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Prince Georgians pay 2% on top of on their assessed value and have voted to cap any increases at 5%. The county council is considering a proposal to change the county's charter to allow the county to increase that cap up to 10%.
“What this bill would do is take the power back from the people and give it to the county council,” Councilman Tom Dernoga said.
There's also the question of the language that will go on November’s ballot. Opposing council members say it’s confusing and misleading.
“Here's the part that's important: And to provide that the homestead credit percentage shall be no less than 100% or exceed 110% for any taxable year,” Dernoga said.
“The language that's being proposed doesn't let people know that they would be voting for an increase if they vote yes,” Ivey said.
“The issue here is can we govern ourselves or not as county?” said Councilman Mel Franklin, who supports the proposal.
Franklin said the tax cap initially created in the 1970s is based in racism and deserves a hard look.
“Back in the late ‘70s and ‘80s there was a sense that the new predominate African-American population would elect elected officials who could not be trusted to make those decisions,” he said. “That's why those tax caps were put in place in our charter. You don't see this in Montgomery County.”
The full council is expected to vote July 21 on whether to place this question on the November ballot.
There have been multiple attempts to revoke the county's tax cap since the county became majority African-Americans, and residents have overwhelmingly voted against it.
Franklin said if the council raises the property tax, that money can be used for the schools and other support services.
There will be a public hearing before the council votes.