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Frederick Co. approves $100 rebates checks

Local homeowners will get back $100 of their property tax payments this year.

A majority of Frederick County commissioners Thursday voted to approve an ordinance to grant tax credits totaling $6.7 million. The money will return to owner-occupied houses in the form of rebate checks.

Commissioner David Gray and some county residents have criticized the plan, calling it a tactic to gain popularity with voters.

But during the meeting, Commissioners President Blaine Young argued the rebate checks had a different purpose.

“This isn’t grandstanding. This is called keeping your word,” Young said.

As he spoke about the credit, Young held up his campaign materials from the 2010 election to show that board members have made good on their promises, such as easing the tax burden on local residents.

However, several people Thursday told commissioners they thought the money would have better uses.

One Frederick resident spoke about recent county funding cuts to grant-in-aid agencies, a group of more than 20 local nonprofits.

She encouraged other taxpayers to use the rebate to offset the reductions.

“Let’s put our money where our value is, back into those nonprofits that were cut. After all, isn’t this the true value of money?” said Jacqueline Messner, one of eight residents to comment on the rebate during Thursday’s meeting.

Another speaker said the funds tapped for the rebate might support the county as it weathers the financial challenges that could lie ahead. Tom Wheatley, of Jefferson, added that offering the credit through rebate checks — which will cost the county an estimated $49,185 to issue and mail — doesn’t make much sense.

“It just seems an awful lot of hoopla,” he said. “It’s only $100. It just seems to be more trouble than it’s worth to mail it out.”

Young and Commissioner Billy Shreve said the feedback they have heard from the community leads them to a different conclusion.

The $100 credit could be significant for people who have low-paying jobs or live on fixed incomes, Shreve said.

Young, Shreve and Commissioner Kirby Delauter voted to approve the property tax credit, while Gray opposed it and requested that his name not appear on a letter accompanying the rebate.

Commissioner Paul Smith abstained from the vote, saying that he would have liked to spend the $6.7 million in a different way, but felt he adequately argued his viewpoint during budget talks. He said he didn’t see the merit in trying to block the credit at this stage.

The checks, which likely will end up in homeowners’ mailboxes in September, will be signed by Young and Smith. During the meeting, Young said the president and vice president of the Board of County Commissioners sign all county-issued checks.

Those whose property tax bills totaled less than $100 will receive a credit to their accounts, according to a staff report.

There is no need for the county to send out IRS reporting forms for the $100 rebate, and residents should treat it the same way they do other tax credits offered by the state and county, the county treasurer said Thursday.

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