At a meeting of the Anne Arundel County Delegation to the Maryland General Assembly, County Executive Steve Schuh formally unveiled his 2016 General Assembly legislative priorities.

“In addition to supporting Gov. Hogan’s proposed tax cuts and common sense reforms to our business regulations, I proposed we enact legislation to bring diversity to our school board, strengthen our communities, improve our environment and protect the taxpayers of Anne Arundel County,” said Schuh.

The county executive asked the delegation’s support for five pieces of proposed legislation, including the following.

Special Community Benefit Districts

This bill would allow the county to create Special Community Benefit Districts (SCBDs) that finance connections to water and sewer services. Current law allows for communities to create SCBDs for property maintenance (parking lots, beaches, roads, wetlands and playgrounds), purchase of property, community recreational activities, etc. The goal is to allow SCBDs to be used to finance the connections to water and wastewater services, which are currently not permitted.

In addition, there is county legislation (Bill 122-15) that will allow for non-residential communities (i.e., businesses) to create SCBDs. Taken together, the state and county bills will allow businesses to form an SCBD to connect to water and sewer in the county. There are at least two business groups that are looking to create SCBDs, in Cape St. Claire and Crofton.

Tax Sale Advertising

This bill would remove the current requirement to advertise tax sales in two newspapers and require the sales to be published on the county’s web site; the county currently publishes the tax sales to its web site. The advertising cost is passed on to the property owners in the form of a $100 fee when they redeem their property; the vast majority of county properties are redeemed by the original property owner.

The county has been looking at many areas to determine where fees can be reduced in order to benefit residents and businesses in the county, and this bill will remove this $100 fee by allowing the county to post these sales to the web site, rather than newspapers.

Property Tax Refunds – Interest Rate

This bill would allow the county to set the interest rate for property tax refunds at the county’s historical rate of return. Current law requires the county to pay 1% interest monthly. The current requirements are very expensive for the county to pay for changes or errors in assessments that it does not control.

Conversely, if interest rates rise, the taxpayer will get the interest rate that the county is actually earning. The goal is to set a rate closer to what the county actually gained on the funds that were deemed at a later date owed back to the property owner.

Oyster Shell Recycling

This bill would increase the current $750 income tax credit for individuals or corporations who recycle oyster shells to $5,000. Anne Arundel County currently has approximately 25 businesses that recycle oyster shells, which are used to raise new oysters and rebuild oyster reefs in rivers and creeks. The current law allows for a person to recycle 150 bushels of shell at $5 a bushel, for a total of $750.

This legislation would increase the incentive to recycle more oyster shells by allowing for a larger number of bushels to be recycled. Oysters act as the filters of the Chesapeake Bay and remove excess nutrients from the water. More oysters mean a cleaner bay, and this legislation will increase the incentive for businesses and individuals to recycle oyster shells that create new oyster habitat.

School Board Nominating Commission

This bill would create a two-year rotation among the county’s six chambers of commerce for one of the seats on the School Board Nominating Commission (SBNC). The current law has a nine-member SBNC that has one seat that is occupied by the Annapolis & Anne Arundel Chamber of Commerce.

This bill would rotate that seat among the West Anne Arundel County, Northern Anne Arundel County, Southern Anne Arundel County, Greater Crofton, Greater Severna Park and Arnold, and Annapolis and Anne Arundel chambers of commerce. The goal with rotating this seat is to provide geographical and philosophical diversity for the seat that represents the county’s business community.