The Talbot County visible from public highways and roads includes vast acreage of fertile farm fields and woods punctuated with numerous villages, towns and crossroads communities.
According to the 2021 Annual Comprehensive Financial Report, the county’s 269 square miles includes a land area of 171,000 acres. Of those, 109,000 acres are farmland.
By boat though, Talbot County looks to be a different place altogether. That different place – reflected in real estate prices – contributes significantly to Talbot County’s wealth and the perspective driving much of the county’s governance.
Joye Nagel, former Talbot County finance director, articulated that distinction in her introductory letter to the 2021 report:
“The County’s 600 miles of shoreline and many historic sites make it a significant tourist destination, drawing visitors from all over the region. Additionally, its abundant waterfront provides many desirable home sites. Development is purposely controlled to protect the County’s beauty and the fragile environment of its shoreline and waters. More intense development is limited to the incorporated municipalities where water and wastewater treatment services are available.”
My quest to determine exactly how many waterfront properties there are in Talbot led, courtesy of current Talbot Finance Director Martha Sparks, to the notes section at the end of the 2021 report. Though the number of waterfront properties wasn’t included, many other statistics were.
The report notes that the estimated market value of all Talbot County real estate, for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2021, totaled just over $8.63 billion.
As is the nature of the rising and falling economy that affects real estate values, the report notes that in 2012, that number stood at $9.7 billion.
Queen Anne’s County, just north of Talbot, reported its 2021 estimated value of real estate at just under $8.6 billion. There, the shoreline clocks in at 414 miles.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shoreline definition includes the mileage along “offshore islands, sounds, bays, rivers, and creeks to the head of tidewater or to a point where tidal waters narrow to a width of 100 feet.”
NOAA estimates the total shoreline of the US at 95,471 miles.
Most know that California, geographically, is a whole lot larger than Maryland, yet that state’s total shoreline of 3,427 miles is only a couple hundred more than Maryland’s 3,190 miles.
Dorchester County to the south of Talbot, with all of its meandering rivers and bays and creeks and extensive marsh systems, give it 1,700 miles of shoreline, according to NOAA.
Shoreline and coastline are two different things as California and Maryland bear out. California’s ocean coast stretches 840 miles from north to south while Maryland has just 31 miles of ocean coast.
But back to Talbot’s numbers.
Driven largely by the value of waterfront property, Talbot’s property taxes brought $45.7 million to county coffers in the 2021 fiscal year. That’s the county’s single largest source of revenues and 41.2 percent of total tax revenues which in 2021 amounted to $120,424,546. That’s against $101,715,752 in expenses.
The report places RDC Inn at Perry Cabin LLC as the holder of the most valuable single piece of real estate in Talbot, valued by the county for tax purposes at $25,497,233.
Talbot’s income tax rate of 2.4 percent is also a significant contributor to county revenues, just under $32 million for the 2021 year. That’s on the basis of $1.37 billion of taxable income earned by the county’s 14,917 tax filers. The county’s total population for that year is listed as 37,673.
A chart in the report shows how that tax burden is distributed. Just about 30 percent of income taxes – $9,369,106 – are paid by the 332 filers who reported incomes for that year of $500,000 and up. The highest number of filers, 4,307, reported annual incomes between $25,000.and $49,900. Their taxes totaled $2,451,626, or about 7.7 percent of Talbot’s total income tax revenues.
That’s called a progressive tax system, where people pay progressively more taxes the more they earn. Sales taxes are a regressive tax where the tax collected is a higher percentage of a person’s income the less they earn.
The other brackets in the Talbot income tax chart show 679 filers earning between $250,000 and $499,000 per year; 2,990 filers between $100,000 and $249,000; 3,860 filers between $50,000 and $99,900; and 2,681 filers between $5,000 and $24,900. There were 678 filers in the under $5,000 per year bracket.
Getting back to the total number of waterfront properties in Talbot, I’m still working on that one. Tougher to pin down. Stay tuned.
Dennis Forney has been a publisher, journalist and columnist on the Delmarva Peninsula since 1972. He writes from his home on Grace Creek in Bozman.