A Calvert County judge has ruled against a Drum Point resident who filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn a special tax district in his community.
The suit, filed last fall by John L. Zalusky, argued that the Drum Point special tax district is invalid because the county commissioners did not follow proper procedures when they approved a change last summer. The suit alleged that the commissioners did not give adequate public notice when they reduced the tax for each property owner from $239 to $195.
Circuit Court Judge Marjorie L. Clagett disagreed.
"It is an illogical reading of the language of the statute to require the [commissioners] to begin the notice and comment procedure anew for every change," she wrote in a ruling issued this month. "To require such a procedure for every change could essentially hamstring the passage of any" special tax district.
Commissioner Gerald W. Clark (R-Lusby) said he was pleased by the decision.
"I always felt the suit didn't really have any merits," he said.
Clagett did agree with Zalusky that the commissioners did not have the authority to attach a 1 percent administrative fee to the special tax.
The county "already has in place the departments, procedures, employees and facilities for collection and administration of taxes," she wrote. "Collection of a fee would constitute double payment for the Drum Point taxpayers."
The decision forbids the county to levy the administrative fee but doesn't specify what to do with funds already collected.
"It would be my hope that they would refund that money to the homeowners," Zalusky said.
Clark said the board has not discussed what to do with the funds. But, he said, "I would assume if the court says we can't collect the 1 percent fee, then we would just give it back."
John R. Gray, president of the Drum Point Property Owners Association's board of directors, said he was relieved that the judge upheld the special tax district, whose revenue is used to upgrade and maintain the commonly owned community roads and other infrastructure. Since the tax district was created in 1996, the county has collected the money and then released it to the property owners association.
"We're just happy to be moving forward," Gray said.
Zalusky, 72, a retired senior economist for the AFL-CIO, said he is in the process of creating a nonprofit political organization whose aim is to unseat the five county commissioners because of their support for the tax district.
Although he is a Democrat, Zalusky said his committee, which he is tentatively calling the Drum Point Group, will be nonpartisan and will include Republicans.
"That's totally his prerogative," Clark said. "He can spend his money and time any way he sees fit."