The Anne Arundel County Council unanimously approved a ten-year, $11.4 million loan to finance construction of community-owned facilities including a boat house, guest cottages and a club house on Gibson Island. There are also plans for repairs and improvements to a privately-owned causeway, the lone access road on and off the island.
In order to pay for the loan, the residents on Gibson Island will pay a higher property tax than the rest of the county, according to a bill approved Monday. The loan agreement, plus a range of other projects planned for the island such as repairs to street lights, roads, storm drains and shore erosion control, adds about 25 cents to the property tax rate of the Gibson Island residents.
County Executive Steuart Pittman’s proposed fiscal 2023 budget keeps the tax rate for county property owners the same as the current year — at 93.3 cents per $100. Meanwhile, Gibson Island residents will pay the same rate they paid last year, about $1.18 cents per $100, according to the bill. The tax rate will go into effect July 1, if approved by the county council.
The agreement is between M&T Bank and the Gibson Island Special Community Benefit District. The county’s only involvement is reviewing and approving it, said Pete Baron, Pittman’s director of government relations.
The island is located between the Magothy River and the Chesapeake Bay in the northern part of the county.
Special community benefit districts are communities in the county that can request an increase in their property taxes and have the added revenue be spent on only their community, according to county code. Gibson Island is one of about 70 special community benefit tax districts in Anne Arundel County. Others include Arundel-on-the-Bay, Cape St. Claire and Hollywood on the Severn.
“Anne Arundel is a little bit unique in that we have a lot of them,” said County Budget Officer Chris Trumbauer.
It’s a win-win for both the special community benefit district and the rest of the county’s residents, said Trumbauer, because the residents within the district can choose the improvements they want to spend money on without increasing tax rates from residents in other areas.
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Like Gibson Island, many of the other special community benefit districts include lots of waterfront properties, he said.
Gibson Island is one of the most affluent places in Maryland, often ranked as the most expensive ZIP code in the state and one of the most expensive in the country. In 2021, the island’s median sale price — the average sale price of homes in the area — was about $3.2 million, according to a study from the real estate website, Property Shark.
“Every county resident pays their property tax but if you live in one of these special community benefit districts you’ve agreed to a higher rate that will change based on what the budget of the special community benefit district is,” Baron said.
Some of the decisions to raise taxes from these districts can be controversial Trumbauer said, as some homeowners may not want to spend their money on certain community amenities. However, the bar to get approval on a project requiring a raise in taxes is high — a majority of property owners need to be in favor of the change.