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Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Property Tax Bills

Including Metropolitan District Charges That Appear on the Tax Bill

Did Baltimore County's property tax rate increase?

No. The property tax rate continues to be $1.10 per $100 of assessed value. 

If there is no change in the tax rate, why would my property tax bill increase?

The tax rate is applied to the assessed value of your property. The Maryland State Department of Assessments and Taxation re-evaluates your property once every three years. If the assessed value of your property goes up, then your property tax bill will increase. However, Baltimore County limits any increase caused by the assessment on principal residential property at four percent per year, even if the value is higher.

What are the Metropolitan District Charges?

The majority of Baltimore County residents and businesses receive water and sewer service from the Metropolitan District (Metro District). The operating cost of water consumption is paid to Baltimore City through quarterly bills that County residents and businesses receive directly from Baltimore City. Fees for the construction cost to maintain the sewer and water system in Baltimore County, as well as the operating cost of the sewer portion of the system in Baltimore County, are paid along with the annual property tax bills issued each summer.

The Metropolitan District Fund must be maintained as a totally self-supporting fund without any supplemental funding from the County’s General Fund Budget. The County must collect annual charges from every property connected to the District’s water and sewer system’s charges, collectively known as Metro Service Charges. These services are comprised of a Water Distribution Charge to cover fixed costs and a Sewer Service Charge to cover variable costs of the system. 

Did Baltimore County's Metropolitan District Charges increase?

Yes. The average increase for all Baltimore County accounts is 13.9 percent.

This rate was reached by calculating Sewer Service rates, which have increased 13 percent; Water Distribution rates, which have increased 28 percent; and Water Delivery rates paid to Baltimore City on quarterly water bills, which will increase six percent.

In order to reduce the impact of these rate increases, Baltimore County has created a new credit that limits the increase of Sewer Service and Water Distribution fees to $100 annually for most residential accounts. See below for more information on the credit.

Why is there an increase in the Metropolitan District Charges?

The Metropolitan District must be maintained as a totally self-supporting fund without any supplemental funding from the County’s General Fund Budget. Current rates are insufficient to cover the District’s investment in its aging infrastructure. The water and sewer pipes in the Metropolitan District are in many cases 50 to 60 years old, exceeding their natural lifespan. Baltimore County has reached an agreement that it will be responsible for the replacement of pipes within Baltimore County, with the cost assumed by all County users of the Metropolitan District. The County is in the midst of a $1.8 billion renovation plan that will help avoid water main breaks and sewage discharge and pay for upgrades to the sewage treatment plants that help keep the Chesapeake Bay clean. 

Did the new water meters impact Metropolitan District Charges?

Yes. Baltimore County’s Sewer Service fees are based on water consumption information provided to the County by Baltimore City. More than 200,000 new water meters have been replaced for all homes and businesses and went online in 2017 as part of the City’s Baltimeter project.

During this past year Baltimore County contracted with a leader in the water management industry to validate the accuracy of Baltimore City’s water meter readings. Baltimore County uses those readings to calculate the sewer service charges included in the annual real property tax bills sent out each July 1. The contractor’s independent collection of water meter readings has confirmed a 97 percent match with Baltimore City’s meter readings. Accurate water consumption figures are, for the first time, becoming available, and years of billing complaints and errors are being addressed. In some cases the improved information may unfortunately result in higher water bills for customers, as the electronic system provides more accurate water consumption data. For example, in some cases, the former meter readings often reported low or no water consumption, which often resulted in undercharging.

What is the Metropolitan Service Credit?

In light of the significant rate increase implemented this year, Baltimore County will establish a temporary (four-year) Metropolitan Service Credit program to reduce the fiscal impact on its residents.

  • Who is eligible?
    Single homeowner-occupied residences on the new water meters that have a property tax assessed value of $250,000 or less are eligible—excluding new water and sewer accounts, property transfers and accounts already receiving City water adjustments. The $250,000 level reflects 125 percent of the median assessed value of Baltimore County single homeowner-occupied homes.
  • How does it work?
    For eligible homeowners, an increase in the Metro Service Fee (the combined Sewer Service and Water Distribution charges) for July 2018 is capped at $100 above the August 2017 billing for those two charges. On the 2017 bill, these charges may be found under the title “Metro Service Fee.”

Homeowners not need to apply for the credit. The amount of the credit appears as a separate line on the 2018 property tax bill.

Example One: If the combined billing for Sewer and Water Distribution charges rise from $400 to $462, then there would be no credit because the increase is less than $100.  

Example Two: If the new meters correct previous readings that understated the amount of real water consumption and the combined Metro charge increases from $400 to $650, you would only pay $500, reflecting the $100 cap and a credit of $150. Again, you do not need to apply for the credit. The amount of the credit appears as a separate line on the property tax bill.

  • How long will the Metropolitan Service Credit program be in place?
    The credit program will be in place for four years, from 2018 to 2021. Each year the net fees will increase only $100 above the net fees for the prior year. In July 2019, using the example given above, the homeowner with $500 net fees would experience only an increase to $600 with a remaining credit of $50. The following year, July 2020, the homeowner would pay the full $650 and not have any credit. Note: This illustration does not consider future rate increases or changes in the homeowner’s water consumption.
  • Can I appeal the credit?
    Like the Sewer Service and Water Distribution Fees, if there has been a classification or calculation error, the taxpayer can file an appeal with the Director of Public Works. The appeal must be filed within 90 days of the bill date. Letters of appeal may be sent to:

Steve Walsh, Director
Baltimore County Department of Public Works
111 West Chesapeake Ave, Room 307
Towson, Maryland 21204

  • Will reassessments impact my eligibility?
    No. All 2018 credit recipients will retain eligibility for the full four years, through 2021, even if the home is reassessed and the home’s assessed value goes above the $250,000 limit during that time period.

Are future Metropolitan District Charge increases expected?

Yes. Annual increases in fee rates are necessary in order to maintain the self-sufficiency of the Metropolitan District Fund. Annual increases are forecasted to be approximately 6 percent (weighted average) for the Sewer Service, Water Distribution and Water Delivery Fee (the quarterly payments to Baltimore City) rates.

Will the names for the Metropolitan District Charges remain as they were on last year’s Property Tax Bill?

No. The county revised the names last year in hopes that it would be easier for individuals to understand. In fact, property owners found the new names more confusing. Therefore, the County is going back to the categories that were listed on the 2016 bills. Those names are:

2017 Title2018 Title (Same as 2016)
Metro Service Charge (2 fees combined)Sewer Service Charge
Water Distribution Charge
Sewer AssessmentSewer Benefit
Water AssessmentWater Benefit

What are the other items that appear on my tax bill?  

Should I contact my bank or mortgage company directly if I'm appealing a charge on my property tax bill?

Yes, it is usually helpful for individuals to reach out directly to their bank or mortgage company to let them know that their bill is being evaluated. The County will make every effort to make decisions regarding inquiries on a property tax bill in a timely manner.

Who should I call if I have questions regarding my property tax bill or the Metropolitan District Charges on my bill?

For property tax questions, call 410-887-2404.

For water, sewer or Metro District questions, call 410-887-2423.

 
Revised June 27, 2018         

 

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