Tax assessment map

This map shows the three cycles of property assessments, one color representing one area assessed per year. The red area, south of Interstate 95, was reassessed in January.

ELKTON — County Executive Alan McCarthy is reportedly planning his Fiscal Year 2020 budget to his current property tax rate, which still remains above constant yield.

Last week, the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxations informed counties across the state of their constant yield rates, or the property tax rate that would generate the same tax revenue as the previous year. For Cecil County, that amounts to $1.0282 per $100 assessed value, an uptick of 0.5 percent from last year’s constant yield rate of $1.0229.

The constant yield went up by 0.0053 cents because of a slight increase in the county’s assessable base. County properties are assessed in three-year cycles, and this year properties in the southern county and greater areas of Elkton south of Interstate 95 were reassessed.

According to MDAT, residential homes in the reassessed area increased about 9 percent in total value, while commercial properties grew about 11 percent. Together, value rose about 9.5 percent — the largest triennial gain for the Group 1 properties since 2008, according to MDAT.

Homeowners won’t see that increase all at once, however, as assessment increases are capped at 4 percent a year in Cecil County, meaning it will take three years for Group 1 residents to see a full reflection of their new assessments.

County Budget Manager Rebecca Anderson said she could not definitively say why Cecil County’s constant yield slightly increased, but said it could have to do with where the reassessment was done. This year’s assessment was focused on the least-populated corners of the county.

“Even though there was a growth of 9 percent in assessments, which is divided up into three years ... when you’ve got the least populated population, that’s not just going to be that much to your assessment number,” Anderson said. “If it had been a 3 percent increase in a higher-density population like the North East corridor or toward the western end of the county, I think you’d see a bigger plus in the constant yield rate.”

The county’s tax rate is currently $1.0414 per $100 assessed value, which has remained stable since McCarthy’s first budget implemented several tax increases, including a 5-cent property tax increase to bring it to where it is today.

Anderson, who is tasked with drafting McCarthy’s budget, said that the plan is to continue with the current tax rate at $1.0414. In doing so, the county will collect extra revenue. In general, one penny on the tax rate generates $1 million in revenue.

If the property tax rate was lowered to the $1.0282 constant yield, property owners would save somewhere between $28 and $33 on their tax bill. But the county would lose about $1.5 million in general fund revenue, according to county officials.

Anderson pointed out that although the tax rate is comparatively higher than the constant yield rate, the county still is working to maintain growing expenses. One example she used was the Cecil County Public School’s budgetary ask of an increase of $1.5 million for education service funds and $16,000 in administrative services.

“The county just has not gotten itself to a point where it can fluctuate with constant yield,” she said. “Our tax rate is our tax rate.”

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