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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. There have been no increases in the Baltimore County property tax rate for 29 consecutive years.

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 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 go up. 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. Baltimore County includes all basic services within that same rate, unlike neighboring jurisdictions. There is no separate charge for trash pickup, "fire fee," or "energy surcharge."

What is the Metropolitan District charge?

The majority of Baltimore County residents and businesses receive water and sewer service from the Metropolitan District. While the operating cost of water consumption is paid to Baltimore City through quarterly billings, 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, is paid by County taxpayers along with their annual property tax bill issued each summer. In order to ensure that the Metropolitan District is self-supporting, i.e. not dependent on regular tax dollars, the County must collect annual charges from every property having a connection with the District. The charges, collectively known as metro service charges, are comprised of a water distribution charge to cover fixed costs and a sewer service charge to cover variable costs of the system. 

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 $1.6 billion renovation plan that will help avoid sinkholes and sewage discharge. Users also pay for upgrades to the sewage treatment plants that help keep the Chesapeake Bay clean. 

The detailed breakdown of the water and sewer parts on the property tax bill appear to be different from past bills. Why were they changed?      

Past bills had a “sewer usage” (on some bills this was listed as “sewer service charge”) and “distribution” (on some bills this was listed as “water distribution”) charge listed separately. Both of these charges are used to pay for the costs associated with operating the entire water and sewer system. In order to be more transparent, the County decided to combine these charges into one “metropolitan service charge,” to reflect the overall cost of delivery of the system, i.e. maintenance and upgrades to the water and sewer pipes, and sewage treatment that reaches the Chesapeake Bay.  

What is the sewer assessment fee on my bill and how is it computed?

This is a charge that reimburses the County for the cost of constructing the sewer main in the street. The rate is based on each property's frontage and the charge is paid on tax bills over 40 years. Homeowners do not have this charge if their homes are over 40 years old.

What is the water assessment fee on my bill and how is it computed?

This is a charge that reimburses the County for the cost of constructing the water main in the street. The rate is based on each property's frontage and the charge is paid on tax bills over 40 years. Many homeowners do not have this charge because their homes are over 40 years old.

What is the metro service charge on my bill and how is it computed?

As stated in the first question above, the “sewer usage” and “distribution” charge from past bills has been combined into one “metropolitan service charge” on this year’s bill. The metropolitan service charge that appears on your current tax bill should be the total of last year’s sewer usage and the distribution charge, as well as an 8.4 percent increase for residential properties. Non-residential increases were slightly more.

What is the homeowner's tax credit that appears on some property tax bills?

The Homeowner's Tax Credit Program—Local Supplement is authorized by both state and County law. It is designed to reduce the property tax burden on the principal residence for certain homeowners. To be awarded this credit, the homeowner must meet certain criteria as indicated below. A new application must be filed every year if an individual wishes to be considered for this credit. Learn more about who qualifies for the credit.

Applications to the Maryland State Homeowner Tax Credit Program, which are available from the State Department of Assessment and Taxation, will also serve as applications for the Baltimore County credit. For more information, call the State Department of Assessment and Taxation at 410-767-4433. A new application must be filed every year if you wish to be considered for this tax credit. The deadline for filing an application is September 1. Note: Baltimore County does not make decisions about this individual credit. This is a state program.

What is the homestead tax credit that appears on some bills?

The Homestead Property Tax Credit is designed to limit the tax burden on property owners whose property assessment has increased. Using a variety of market conditions and other considerations, the Maryland State Department of Assessment and Taxation calculates the annual property assessment for real property located throughout the state. Baltimore County limits the increase to four percent over the previous year's taxable assessment. The State of Maryland limits its increase to 10 percent.

This credit will reduce County and state tax liability and will be reflected in the property tax bill. The tax credit will be applicable if the following conditions are met during the previous tax year:

  • The property was not transferred to new ownership.
  • There was no change in the zoning classification by the homeowner resulting in an increased value of the property.
  • A substantial change did not occur in the use of the property.
  • The previous assessment was not clearly erroneous.

Eligibility

The following conditions must be met to apply for the tax credit:

  • The dwelling must be the owner's principal residence.
  • The owner must have lived in the property for at least six months of the year, including July 1 of the year for which the credit is applicable, unless the owner was temporarily unable to do so by reason of illness or need of special care.

An owner can receive a credit on only one property—the principal residence. The status of the property account is identified on the taxpayer's copy of the real property tax bill, either as a principal residence or not a principal residence. 

Learn more about the Homestead Tax Credit program.

What is the Bay restoration fund fee that appears on property tax bills?

In 2004, the State of Maryland established a Bay Restoration Fund. The law charges a monthly fee on residential wastewater system users, commercial users and onsite sewage disposal system owners. This annual fee has been separately identified on your property tax bill and the funds will be remitted to the State. The monies will be used by the State to upgrade 66 sewage treatment plants in Maryland and reduce water pollution in the Chesapeake Bay. For additional information regarding the Bay Restoration Fund, call the Maryland Department of the Environment at 410-537-3567. Learn more about this state fee.

Does the elimination of the County's stormwater remediation fee mean that water and sewer projects will not be funded?

Baltimore County’s Storm Water Remediation Fee has been repealed. The County’s stormwater remediation projects are required by federal law and must be completed on schedule, and those projects that were funded by this fee must now be funded out of the County’s general fund budget.

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 try 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 charges on my bill?

Baltimore County customer service staff is available to help individual citizens review their bills.

  • For property tax questions call 410-887-2404.
  • For water, sewer or metro questions call 410-887-2423.
 
Revised August 17, 2017         

 

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