“The only suggestion I can make is that we have to take a very, very close look at the nonprofits” that own buildings but don’t pay taxes, Nigh said.
Democrat Kristin Aleshire, also a former council member, said he’s seen both sides of the fence after serving as a Washington County commissioner. Supplying incentives for people to occupy empty homes could be a way to boost and stabilize revenues, he said.
GOP candidate Larry Bayer said the tax rate is too high.
“I’d like to see it lowered by 5 to 10 cents” by trying to expand the overall tax base through annexation, he said.
Later, a question posed to Bruchey and Gysberts in the second forum asked the candidates what alternatives — besides the stadium project — would they consider to help revitalize Hagerstown’s struggling downtown.
Bruchey said he would continue to support incentive programs that specifically work to attract businesses to the city’s core, such as the Partners in Economic Progress (PEP) program that seven companies are currently using.
“They saw the advantage of working in the core, where they have services that they can use ... and the city of Hagerstown is reaching out to help small business,” he said.
Gysberts said he also supports the incentive programs, but city staff needs to keep better tabs on them and make sure they are working in concert with the needs of businesses that want to be in Hagerstown.
“I think that if we level the playing field; if all businesses are treated equally in terms of the regulations they have to face ... that would be one thing we should work on,” Gysberts said.
The forum was sponsored by The Herald-Mail.
For much more from the forums, people can tune to HMTV 6 (Channel 6 on Antietam Cable) for excerpts of responses from council and mayoral candidates during the week of Oct. 22. It will also be made available online at www.herald-mail.com/hmtv6.