A Prince George’s County Council member has floated a bill to give public safety workers a property tax discount of up to $2,500, in an attempt to entice them to live in the county.
County Councilman Mel Franklin (D-District 9), who proposed the legislation, said it’s about retaining and recruiting top-notch talent to work and live in the county, with the caveat that the tax break could cost the county up to $2.9 million.
According to a draft resolution, the beneficiaries of the tax credit would receive about 20 percent of the value in final six months of 2018 tax year. The bill shows the credit would increase an additional 20 percent every year until 2022.
“We’ve had challenges with our recruitment and this would be an added tool to offset property tax costs that would attract more folks want to be public safety officers in Prince George’s County,” Franklin said. “You’re literally in the community that you’re policing, or providing law enforcement in connection with the community you’ll be [living] in.”
According to a letter from the county’s Office of Audits and Investigation, less than half of the 3,244 police officers, firefighters, deputy sheriffs, emergency medical technicians and correctional officers reside in the county. Nearly 1,000 of those workers own a home in the county. About a third of them are employed by the county police department, which has about 1,700 people on the force.
The legislation also permits tax credits for volunteer firefighters and emergency technicians eligible for annual stipends under the Length of Service Award Program, or LOSAP. It’s similar to a retirement program that offers financial incentives based on the length of a person’s service in a community.
When the county approved this year’s budget, it included money for 200 police recruits through June, 115 firefighters and 25 deputy sheriffs. In addition, about $4.5 million was allocated in overtime for police, fire, sheriffs and workers in Department of Corrections.
“Quite frankly, it is more of an incentive for the residents of Prince George’s County,” police union President John Teletchea said of the legislation. “This is the final piece of the community oriented policing model to ensure all of our police officers live in Prince George’s County … where they know their neighbors and protecting their community.”
During an Oct. 11 public safety and fiscal management committee session, county auditor David Van Dyke highlighted what other jurisdictions offer.
In Howard County, property tax credits are provided for a disabled law enforcement, or rescue worker. Neighboring Anne Arundel County provides the same incentive, but also to a surviving spouse.
In the District, employees who are purchasing a home for the first time can receive a matching down payment of up to $1,500 and a deferred loan of up to $10,000.
Officials commended Franklin’s legislation, but it could have a negative impact on Prince George’s.
According to a letter from Stanley A. Early, acting director of the county’s Office of Management and Budget, the proposal would increase the county’s structural deficit and send a negative message to other county employees “that we do not value them living in the county” and “that we would rather waive county property taxes for our employees but not provide the same benefit [for] the 300,000 real property taxpayers.”
Because the proposed bill wouldn’t go into effect until July, the committee voted 3-2 to table the bill and continue more discussions.
Council members Pam Lehman and Andrea Harrison voted to move the legislation along to the full council, but fellow members Todd Turner, Deni Taveras and Dannielle Glaros opted for more discussion.
“What is the rush?” said Glaros, who chairs the committee. “Why can’t we make sure in what we do actually hits the mark into what we want? We have plenty of time. Let’s make sure this is right bill for us to achieve what we want to do.”