Baltimore County Now
Achsah Joseph, Intern, Baltimore County Bureau of Solid Waste Management
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
You’re easy to recycle;
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
So easy to recycle;
Take off the star and ornaments,
And place outside your residence.
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
You’re easy to recycle!
Ah, the Christmas tree. For weeks, it has served you well, its branches overflowing with ornaments and garlands, watching over the growing pile of presents. But when Christmas Day, Boxing Day and even New Year’s Day have come and gone, what do you do with the tree?
Recycle it, of course! The easiest option is to place your tree out for curbside collection no later than Saturday, January 19, 2013. Before putting your tree outside, make sure that it is bare, with no decorations, tinsel, bags or tree stands of any kind. Again, remember to set out your tree on your front curb or street, and not in alleys.
If you’re a go-getter who wants to get rid of your tree sooner, make sure it’s completely free of garlands, tinsel, ornaments, bags and tree stands, and take the tree to any of the three County drop-off locations starting December 26, 2012.
After your tree is dropped off at a County drop-off center or picked up by collectors, it will be chipped and used as mulch. This process, known as “treecycling,” keeps the trees out of the county landfill and transforms them into useful landscaping material.
More than 90 percent of all real Christmas trees bought this year in the United States are expected to be recycled. Join us and recycle your tree this year!
Bob Franke, Customer Service Manager
Baltimore County Office of Budget and Finance
The holidays are busy, but you’ll want to make sure to add one important thing to your to-do list. The deadline to file to retain your Homestead Tax Credit is next Monday, December 31, 2012. If you own the home where you live, you have been getting a significant credit on your property taxes for years. That credit will expire unless you file by the deadline.
For the past five years, the Maryland State Department of Assessments and Taxation has been requiring residential property owners to file a new application to be eligible for the Homestead Tax Credit. You may have received the credit in the past, but if you fail to file an application that benefit will cease.
For those of you who need a small refresher, the Homestead is a tax credit that applies to your primary residence only. The credit limits the amount of your property assessment on which you actually pay taxes. While your assessments may increase dramatically, the credit limits the increase in the taxable portion of that assessment to just 4% per year. Our Taxpayer Services Section works with Baltimore County property owners on a daily basis, and we can clearly see the impact this tax credit has had on some accounts that otherwise would have faced 20%, 40%, or even 60% increases in their tax bill.
The credit itself can be very large during times of high property assessment increases, but shrinks as assessment growth slows or as assessments even decrease (as we have seen in recent years). Some property owners who, through lower reassessments or because they recently moved, may have seen the credit drop to zero and are wondering is it worth filing now. The truth is, no one knows when and if housing prices will rapidly accelerate again, but with the Homestead Tax credit eligibility in place, you can be protected automatically. That’s why it’s critical that you apply before the December 31st deadline. It’s a quick and simple one-time process that can save you substantial money.
If you are unsure if you’re approved, or simply want to verify your eligibility, you should visit the State Department of Assessments and Taxation website at www.dat.state.md.us and click on “Real Property Data Search.” Click on Baltimore County and enter your street address. When your property page is displayed, scroll to the very bottom to see if you submitted the application.
If you haven’t filed the application yet, you can reach the Homestead Credit Program by calling (410) 767-2165, or toll free at 1-866-650-8783.
Please, take a few minutes to verify your eligibility for this credit, and if necessary file the application. Is it a big deal? You bet it is.
BaltimoreCountyFire DepartmentDivision Chief Michael Robinson
“Tis the season!” for celebrations, decorating, cooking shopping and all else related to sharing the joys and festivities of the holidays. This is also a time when we see an increase in fires and related accidents.
In fact, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) from late November through January we typically see a spike in fires caused by Christmas trees, candles, lights and holiday cooking. Over the last decade, these holiday-related fires have resulted in more than $1 billion in residential property losses and more than 200 lives lost.
Your Baltimore County Fire Department urges you to take a few moments and consider some simple steps to assure your safety during this special time of the year. Here are the top 10 tips that fire safety experts recommend you consider:
1. Water your tree. If you choose a live Christmas tree, assure its freshness by making a fresh cut on the base of the tree before putting your tree into a sturdy stand. Keep the needles moist by watering frequently (at least daily).
2. Check your lights (maybe twice). Be sure to use only outdoor lights outside. Inspect all lights for fraying, damage and wear. If wires are visible through the insulation, discard and replace the lights. Look for cracked sockets and loose connections; if you find them, replace the string. Never plug more than three strands of lights together; this may cause heating and failure of the wires. Also, use only lights from an approved laboratory, and look for a label such as UL (Underwriter’s labs) or FM (Factory mutual). If no label, replace the lights.
3. Plan your fire escape. This is a good time to make sure that you have two exits out of each room and to plan what you would do in the event of fire. Be sure that you have working smoke detectors on each level and in each sleeping area of your home.
4. Sleep safe; have a carbon monoxide detector. A CO detector should be on each floor of your home. Under Baltimore County law, CO detectors are required in all rental properties and in some owner-occupied homes. Place these near sleeping areas and test them regularly.
5. Be “flame aware.” Maintain at least 3 feet of clearance of any materials around a fire place. That includes hanging Christmas stockings “by the chimney with care!” Also do not leave candles unattended and teach your children to keep away from these and fireplaces.
6. Clean up your wrapping paper. After opening wrapped gifts, take that paper and recycle it. Never burn it, as it may clog the chimney or spread fire as an ash. Single- stream recycling in Baltimore County makes proper disposal of wrapping paper an easy task.
7. Check extension cords. Make sure that they are laboratory-approved, just like your lights. Never staple, tape or run them under rugs. Check the wattage rating, and don’t overload your electrical outlets. If a circuit trips or a fuse blows, consider that is a warning that you are overloaded. Overloaded circuits pose a fire hazard!
8. Christmas tree placement. Set up your tree away from fireplaces, vents and other heat sources. The tree should also not block pathways or exits from a room.
9. Decorate safely. Be careful in selecting tree ornaments that are glass or that have small pieces that can become choking hazards. When securing decorations, be careful not to tape, staple or tack them into wiring!
10. Cook with caution. We tend to cook more and use more burners and stoves at once. Watch for hot surfaces, overflowing pots/pans and never use a turkey deep fryer indoors. These require a clear, open, outdoor area and are a frequent cause of fires.
The Baltimore County Fire Department wishes you a happy and safe holiday season!