Frederick County Council unanimously passed a law introducing a property tax credit for disabled veterans Tuesday night.
Credit is available to veterans across the county who have been honorably discharged, have permanent disabilities, and are earning a federally adjusted gross income of $ 100,000 or less per year. Councilor Steve McKay (R) was the main sponsor of the law. He was joined by council members Jessica Fitzwater (D), Kai Hagen (D) and Michael Blue (R) as co-sponsors.
“It’s the right thing,” said Fitzwater. “I know it will benefit some very valued members of our community.”
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs uses a percentage scale to describe the severity of veterans’ disabilities and determines their benefits accordingly. For example, a veteran with a minor disability could get a 10 percent disability rating, but a veteran whose disability meant being unable to support himself at all would get a 100 percent rating.
To qualify for the newly established council tax credit, Frederick County veterans must have a disability rate of at least 50 percent on the VA scale, which is divided into intervals of ten.
But the legislation contains two separate layers, McKay said. Veterans with a 50, 60, or 70 percent disability will receive a 25 percent credit on their property taxes, while veterans with an 80 or 90 percent rating will receive a 50 percent credit. Under state law, veterans with a 100 percent disability rate are already exempt from property tax.
While most Maryland counties have introduced tax credits for retired veterans, McKay said Frederick would be among the first to set up one for disabled veterans: Washington County is the only other county he could find with a similar scheme.
“We can show the way,” said McKay.
At Tuesday’s meeting, McKay responded to questions about how much the loan would ultimately cost the county. However, he stood by previous statements that he wasn’t worried about the price.
A tax bill attached to the bill estimated that the county would lose about $ 1.9 million in revenue if it were implemented, but McKay said it could likely be a few hundred thousand dollars higher. It all depends on how many residents of the county are eligible and how many apply to benefit from it.
In order to implement and monitor the new program, the county must hire at least one new employee, said council chairman MC Keegan-Ayer (D) – which increases the total cost of the bill.
Although all council members supported the bill, there was a back-and-forth over this point. At last week’s meeting when the council voted to approve County Executive Jan Gardner’s budget, McKay and Phil Dacey (R) discussed theirs at length Concerns about the county’s growing spending.
Keegan-Ayer and member Jerry Donald (D) saw “irony” in McKay’s lack of concern about the cost of the county tax credit, given his stance over the past week.
“One of the reasons the government is growing is that we are asking them to do more,” said Donald. “Sometimes if you want to do something like this, you have to provide facilities for it.”
McKay “feels very strong about it – so much that he doesn’t care what it costs,” added Keegan-Ayer.
“I just want to remind people that we always have to consider a perspective that someone else might come from when developing our own perspective,” she said.