In a 4-3 vote, Frederick County Council expands property tax credit for veterans

Jan. 19—Frederick County Council voted Tuesday to expand eligibility for a property tax credit for seniors and veterans.

The 20% credit will be available to active duty, retired, and honorably discharged military members with a service-related disability and their surviving spouses. It was previously granted only to retired military personnel. The measure also removes an income threshold and raises the home value limit to $500,000 to qualify for the credit.

Councilman Steve McKay (right), who sponsored the bill, said his goal was to make Frederick County “the most desirable place” in Maryland for veterans to retire.

“I just want to show our appreciation for their service,” the councilman said at Tuesday’s council meeting. “And there aren’t many ways to do it, but this is one of those ways.”

Council Vice President Michael Blue (R), Councilor Phil Dacey (R) and Councilor Kai Hagen (D) were all co-sponsors of McKay’s bill, so he had the four votes needed to pass by Tuesday .

Council Speaker MC Keegan-Ayer, Councilwoman Jessica Fitzwater and Councilman Jerry Donald, all Democrats, voted against the measure. Keegan-Ayer was adamantly opposed to McKay raising the home value limit to $500,000 to qualify for the credit.

As someone with multiple family members who served in the military, including her father and son, Keegan-Ayer said she understands the immense level of sacrifice service members make. But, she said, McKay’s proposal was too big a jump from $300,000 — the previous home value limit to qualify for the credit — and the county’s median home value is d. approximately $328,500.

“As I put it in [the News-Post], it’s a little too rich for my blood. I have a hard time swallowing that,” Keegan-Ayer said Tuesday.

The council chairwoman proposed an amendment on Tuesday that would have put the home’s value limit in the middle, at $400,000, but she lacked one of the four votes needed for the change to pass.

“I’m not trying to rationalize the number based on the price economics of our homes here,” McKay said during the meeting. “I’m looking at it strategically because I want Frederick County to be number one on this list when a service member looks at what tax treatments they might receive statewide.”

In addition to eligible veterans, the property tax credit is — and will remain — available to seniors who have lived in a home for at least the past 40 years and have a gross household income of $80,000 or less.

Follow Jack Hogan on Twitter: @jckhogan

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