Talbot County residents who voted by absentee ballot or during early voting supported three changes to the county’s property tax revenue cap, but rejected a measure to allow the county council to waive the residency requirement for county attorney, engineer, and planning officer.
Question A to waive the residency requirement was opposed by nearly 57 percent of early and absentee voters.
Question B corrects inaccurate language in the tax cap, approved by voters in 1996.
About 73 percent of early and absentee voters supported the charter amendment.
Question C would amend the tax cap by eliminating a reference to the Consumer Price Index-Urban (CPI-U). The existing property tax revenue cap limits the annual increase in property tax revenues to 2% or CPI-U, whichever is less.
Question C would eliminate CPI-U, which in some years has been less than 2%, further restricting the county’s ability to increase revenues to fund needed services and capital projects.
Early and absentee voters favored the amendment by 69% to 31%.
Question D would allow the county council to temporarily increase the property tax rate above the revenue cap by up to one cent per $100 of assessed value for five years only.
A one cent increase in the property tax rate would cost the owner of a home assessed at $250,000 an additional $25 annually; an additional $50 annually for the owner of a home assessed at $500,000.
Officials have pitched the one cent increase as a way for the county to catch up on lost revenue from the years when CPI-U limited the increase in revenue below 2% and as a way to help fund much-needed capital projects.
About 60% of early and absentee voters backed the temporary tax increase.
Talbot County Sheriff Joe Gamble and Emergency Services Director Clay Stamp had been leading the charge in seeking voter approval for Questions B, C, and D.
The public safety officials said the existing cap has limited the county’s ability to attract and retain deputies, paramedics, and other first responders.
Salaries and benefits for first responders are lower than in surrounding counties, the two have said, making it difficult to find new hires for open positions and leading to trained staffers leaving for better compensation packages elsewhere.
The county also needs to build a new office for the sheriff’s office and the county health department, as well as provide an additional substation for paramedics, officials have noted.