Wicomico Co. Council passes HORIZON Program legislation

WICOMICO COUNTY, Md. – Community leaders say hope for expansion is on the horizon as Wicomico County Council passed a new tax incentive program Tuesday. “Investors have been waiting for this legislation. So, we anticipate that there will be virtually immediate action, and hopefully some shovels in the ground pretty quickly,” said President and CEO of the Greater Salisbury Committee Mike Dunn.

The HORIZON program allows developers with hotel or residential projects valued at at least $10 million a large property tax break over their first ten years.
In the beginning, they get 80% off, which would reduce to 30% by the end of that first decade. “This economic development will help everyone. I think there’s been a little bit of misinformation out there. At the end of the day, when these projects are built out, they will be paying full taxes,” said Dunn.

Dissenting Opinions

The legislation passed four to three, with Council President Larry Dodd and Council Members Joe Holloway and Nicole Acle dissenting. They expressed worries about how lost tax revenue could impact public services like first responders and schools. “There has been no economic impact study to tell us how this is going to affect the community. I have asked that question. Citizens have asked that question. There has been no answer to that,” said Council Member Acle.

Dissenting council members also said they wonder just how fair the program really is. “Let these large scale projects pay their fair share, as do the rest of the homeowners and citizens of Wicomico County,” said Council Member Holloway.

Council President Dodd also says he worries about balancing those potentially lost dollars with paying for other projects. He says that includes plans for a new sheriff’s facility and 911 center. “It really concerns me that someone’s got to pay the bills. How are we going to pay the bills if we’re giving all these tax breaks?” said Council President Dodd.

Looking Ahead

The program is modeled after the City of Salisbury’s version of HORIZON. County officials tell 47ABC that if developers meet eligibility, they could stand to benefit from both the City of Salisbury and Wicomico County’s HORIZON programs.

Something else that proponents of the program are hoping to see in the future is expanding it to first responders. They say hopefully the county could do something similar to what the City of Salisbury’s Next Step recovery plan. In the plan, first responders get a permanent 100% city property tax credit. That was enacted in may of 2020. “We’ve got tons of men and women who keep us safe each and every night out in our rural communities. If giving them relief on their property taxes is something we can do to keep them in the ranks, then we are all for it,” said Dunn.

Categories: Local News, Local Politics, Maryland, Money