Berlin considers raising taxes to replenish general fund

BERLIN, Md. – Berlin council members are considering raising property tax rates as well as raising sewer and storm water rates in order to replenish the town’s general fund.

Berlin’s Mayor Gee Williams said, “We haven’t had a property tax increase in this town for about 15 years so it’s a new territory for us at least.”

Year after year, more and more money has been drained from Berlin’s general fund to the point where the Mayor calls it intolerable.

Mayor Williams said, “The sewer fund alone has borrowed about three million dollars from the general fund over the last eight years.”

The general fund pays for things like police, fire and EMS. These are things that Berlin residents say they enjoy.

Sara Hambury said, “We have curbside recycling and policemen that know my name and my children’s names, my children ride their bikes to school, what is better than that?”

To solve the problem, the town plans to first stop borrowing from the general fund and then second pay back those borrowings.

Mayor Williams said, “We have to make choices if we did not raise these property taxes and these utility fees we would have to substantially cut back services and investment into the town.”

Right now, council members are considering raising the current property tax rate from 68 cents to 93 cents at the highest.

Mayor Williams said, “They’re considering options that go basically from about 18 cents all the way up to 25 cents per hundred that range.”

Locals we spoke to say they understand the need for a tax raise, and support it.

Sara Hambury said, “I’m actually fine with paying taxes, it goes right back into my community.”

Lisa Rodriguez said, “As long as it is going back to the town, the town has been growing and it probably does need the money so.”

Another option council members are considering in an effort to replenish their general fund is to implement a two tier system. As part of that system, property owners would pay one rate and commercial property owners would pay a slightly higher rate.

While we spoke to the Mayor on Tuesday, he told us about three public meetings that will be happening in March.

The meetings are called the resilience meetings, and they are being held in an effort to help make the town more sustainable moving forward.

The three focuses of the meetings are going to be: financial sustainability, environmental sustainability, and what major opportunities the town has to improve quality of life all while being sustainable.

Town leaders tell us everyone is encouraged to attend so you can listen, learn, and share your own ideas.

Mayor Gee Williams said, “One of our basic philosophies is in this century economic opportunity and vitality must be balanced with environmental stewardship.”

These meetings are taking place on March 14th, 16th, and 18th. You are encouraged to attend one of the three meetings in order to have your voice heard.

Categories: Local News, Maryland