A group of concerned College Park residents is asking their fellow neighbors not to sign the petition which is currently being collected by Prince George’s Property Owners’ Association (PGPOA).
Please see the text of that “alert letter” below, at the end of the post (titled ‘Alert About Harmful and Deceptive Referendum Petitions). I’m also including the language of the petition that seeks to modify two articles of the City Charter:
TWO PROPOSED AMENDMENTS TO THE CITY CHARTER
1. Article XI, Sect. C12-6. Non-Discrimination in Housing and Rental Laws
“Any ordinance or other restriction governing housing and rentals shall be applied equally and uniformly throughout the City. No law governing housing or rentals shall be valid which discriminates on the basis of race, sex, creed, national; origin, sexual orientation, occupation, familial status, economic status or geographical location. Any law governing housing and rentals shall make no distinction on the basis of race, sex, creed, national; origin, sexual orientation, occupation, familial status, economic status or geographical location of the housing unit, or the size or type of the housing unit. The City may create appropriate exceptions to this amendment for housing maintained by the State and local governments, hotels, motels, university dormitories, nursing homes and assisted living units, provided such housing does not violate Federal or state fair housing and fair accommodation laws.”
2. Article X, Sect. C10-12 Property Tax Limitation
“Notwithstanding any of provision of law, the City Council shall not levee a real property tax which would result in a total collection of real property taxes greater than the amount collected in fiscal year 2011. In the event that any annual collection of real property taxes exceeds the limits set forth in this section as estimated in the annual budget projections, said excess shall be placed in a contingency fund, and, if not used during the current fiscal year, said excess will be included in the budget estimate for real property taxes in the following fiscal year.”
Alert About Harmful and Deceptive Referendum Petitions
We are writing to alert you about the efforts of an absentee landlords group to place two City Charter amendments on the College Park municipal elections in 2011. Either one of these two Charter amendments, if it were to pass, would be extremely harmful to the residents of College Park.
The Prince George’s Property Owners Association (PGPOA), which represents mostly absentee landlords who own rental houses in College Park, initiated the two petitions. The PGPOA hired an Arizona petition gathering firm to run this campaign and misinform residents that the purpose of these two petitions is to prevent housing discrimination in College Park and to “keep a lid on taxes.” In fact, the two referendums, if they pass, would force the city to abandon reasonable and lawful programs to regulate rental properties, increase taxes for homeowners while reducing taxes for absentee landlords, and require damaging cuts to essential city services.
One of the two Charter amendments would require that “Any [city] law governing housing or rentals shall make no distinction on the basis of… the size or type of the housing unit.” The effect of this would be to prohibit the city from differential treatment of rentals vs. owner-occupied properties or rental houses vs. apartment buildings. This would destroy the City’s ability to enact necessary safety regulations relating to rental properties, or to enforce fire codes, rules against overcrowding, and basic requirements regarding upkeep of rental houses, unless they were applied equally to non-rental properties. It would also prevent the City from applying tax breaks for owner-occupied properties, such as the homestead property tax credit and the homeowners’ property tax credit, which save homeowners in College Park thousands of dollars every year.
The second would permanently freeze the city’s total property tax revenues (not just the rate) at the fiscal year 2011 level. This means that city property tax revenues would not be allowed to increase to keep pace with inflation, annexations, new construction, or for any other reason. This would strangle the City’s progress and soon force cuts to core services like trash collection, recycling, snow removal, and policing. The absentee landlords group has cleverly worded its ballot measure to sound like tax relief, when in fact it would prevent the city from reaping the benefit of revenues from an expanding commercial tax base. With redevelopment occurring, we are seeing more taxes from developments such as student housing, IKEA, and other projects. The City has wisely used that money to keep homeowners’ tax rates low and to fund additional policing and other areas that increase quality of life. The combination of freezing total property tax revenues while removing the homestead tax credit would result in a significant decline in tax bills for rental properties and a significant increase for tax bills for homeowners.
We urge you to join with us in opposing this dangerous attack on the city. If you signed one of the petitions and would like to withdraw your signature, you can complete and submit the withdrawal form available online.