Thanking Older Residents

I am writing to thank everyone involved with making the annual SALT/Triad picnic a resounding success. The public safety community and senior community leaders treated more than 650 of our county's senior citizens to a wonderful afternoon at Downs Park recently. It was our way of saying thank you to our seniors for partnering with us to make our communities safer.

This year's outstanding turnout demonstrated how well public safety leaders, AARP and our county's seniors are working together to share valuable information that saves time and prevents tragedies.

Triad is a nationally recognized grass-roots program that promotes communication between public safety agencies and senior citizens. Triad receives support from the National Sheriffs' Association, the International Association of Chiefs of Police and AARP . Locally, Triad is led by an advisory council of public safety representatives of the Anne Arundel County Sheriff's Office, the county police and fire departments, the Annapolis police and fire departments, the county's Department of Aging and leaders of senior communities.

Each council is referred to as a SALT -- Seniors and Law Enforcement Together. We share concerns and disseminate information on topics that include telephone fraud, personal safety, and detecting and preventing senior abuse.

By working together, we can prevent criminals from victimizing seniors and other area residents. For more information, call the Anne Arundel County Sheriff's Office at 410-222-1571.

Thank you for making all our communities safer.

Sheriff George E. Johnson IV

Anne Arundel County

Tax Relief for Seniors

Due to an inequitable interpretation of state law, an increasing number of property owners with moderate incomes -- especially seniors on fixed incomes -- are losing a "circuit-breaker" or homeowners tax benefit they have enjoyed for many years.

I introduced legislation during the 2004 General Assembly session to correct this inequity, which in some instances has resulted in a loss of as much as $1,000 in tax relief. The bill (HB 391) had broad, bipartisan sponsorship but did not receive a vote in the House Ways and Means Committee. I will reintroduce this legislation in the 2005 session.

The circuit-breaker program was started in 1975 and operated fairly for 20 years. Due to a rewriting of the property tax laws, the program was changed from 1995 to the present day, costing thousands of taxpayers hundreds of dollars in tax relief. About 80 percent of the homeowners receiving this tax credit are older than 60, and all, by law, have assets of less than $200,000, excluding the value of their home.

The current program offers income-eligible households a tax break on up to $150,000 of their home's value, but that credit has been wiped out in many cases by the recent rise in home values. The state limits all owner-occupied residential assessment increases to 10 percent a year, and Anne Arundel County has a 2 percent cap. Any benefit taxpayers receive from the assessment limit is counted against them when the state computes the property tax credit for the circuit-breaker program. As home values increase, the tax credit diminishes.

This inequity must be corrected. Every year that goes by without action by the General Assembly results in several hundred property owners losing much-needed dollars of tax relief.

Del. John R. Leopold

(R-Anne Arundel)

Maryland House of Delegates

Anne Arundel County