On May 2, the Hyattsville City Council held a public hearing on the proposed real property tax rate.

The current tax rate is $0.63 per $100, and the city council proposed to keep the tax rate the same for the upcoming fiscal year. The constant yield tax rate, which is the tax rate necessary to produce as much revenue as last year, is $0.5945 per $100 of assessed value. Due to the increase in home values, keeping the tax rate at $0.63 would generate an additional $911,606 over what the constant yield rate would generate, according to the notice the city published in The Prince George’s Post.

A number of residents spoke at the May 2 hearing, including Claire Panak, who suggested using the extra revenue to provide direct cash payments to families with children living in poverty. 

Other speakers supported lowering the property tax rate, citing concerns such as rapidly increasing home values, rising inflation and financial burdens from the coronavirus pandemic. “We’re all pinched, so let’s be a little pinched together,” said resident Melissa Schweisguth.

City Treasurer Ron Brooks noted that the council plans to hire a consultant to examine current tax programs, such as the homestead tax credit and the homeowners’ tax credit, in an effort to increase targeted tax relief. Brooks noted that it will take time to determine workable options.

City Councilmember Joseph Solomon (Ward 5) proposed an amendment to set the tax rate at $0.60 per $100 of assessed value. Councilmember Edouard Haba (Ward 4) agreed, saying that although he would have preferred to see the constant yield tax rate adopted, $0.60 would be better than $0.63. Haba suggested that the city could readily absorb a revenue gap for one year, and revisit this issue next year, if need be.

Councilmember Danny Schaible (Ward 2) said that some homeowners, including a number of long-term residents he’d spoken with, were unaware of the available tax credit programs. He suggested a $0.61 tax rate amendment, a compromise proposal that Solomon and others on the council in favor of lowering the tax rate accepted. (Schaible and interim Mayor Robert Croslin are both running in the city’s mayoral race.) 

Croslin objected to cutting the property tax rate and said he wanted to keep politics and the upcoming election out of the discussion. He noted that cutting taxes would lead to difficult decisions about cutting city-funded programs.

Solomon’s amendment for a lower tax rate failed, due, in part, to opposition from other councilmembers, including Daniel Peabody (Ward 4) and Ben Simasek (Ward 3), who favored retaining the higher tax rate to enable the city to provide aid for residents in need. Simasek noted that owners of more expensive properties typically benefit most from lower property taxes.

After much discussion, the council voted to keep the property tax rate at $0.63 per $100 of assessed value. Councilmembers Sam Denes (Ward 1), Joanne Waszczak (Ward 1), Ben Simasek (Ward 3), Jimmy McClellan (Ward 3), Daniel Peabody (Ward 4) and interim Mayor Robert Croslin voted in favor of maintaining the current tax rate. Councilmembers Danny Schaible (Ward 2), Edouard Haba (Ward 4), Joseph Solomon (Ward 5) and Rommel Sandino (Ward 5) voted against it.