If you’re wondering what you get from Columbia Association (CA) for your annual charge, you can start by looking outside.

In addition to maintaining more than 3,600 acres of open space and more than 94 miles of pathways, CA also offers free summer concerts on Lake Kittamaqundi, fishing in our many lakes, as well as other services.

Providing the quality of life that has seen Columbia frequently ranked among the top places to live in America, including sixth in 2014, starts with the annual charge rate paid by residents.

FY2017 Rate

The annual charge rate for FY2017 is 68 cents per $100 of valuation, assessed on 50 percent of the fair market value as determined by the state of Maryland for property tax purposes. That is almost 10 percent less than the allowable maximum of 75 cents per $100 of valuation. CA’s Board of Directors has approved the cap at 3.5 percent, which is approximately one-third of the amount allowed by law.

Columbia Association applies the same methodology used by Howard County with respect to their cap on property taxes, and they don’t apply those caps in calculating taxes due on a property in the year following the purchase.

Residents contribute approximately 70 percent of the annual charge revenue, and the business community contributes 30 percent.

For information about your annual charge, call the Annual Charge Customer Service Line at 410-715-3137.

Dues and Fees

The income provided by the annual charge, while significant, covers only slightly more than half of the cost of the services provided by Columbia Association. Therefore, some of the most popular activities, such as Package Plan or Facility Memberships, require the payment of dues and fees. Since CA resident members pay both membership dues and the annual charge, their dues are significantly lower than those paid by non-residents. For example, CA resident families normally pay approximately 30 to 50 percent less for a membership in the Package Plan or for the outdoor pools than nonresident members.

This approach creates a strong community balance. Those who use CA facilities and programs support the greatest portion of those costs, while the expense of maintaining and operating universal amenities like community centers, pathways, tot lots and lakes are shared by all residents. A recent survey showed that CA services are well-used and enjoyed by the community — 94 percent have used at least one of the amenities including the Open Space, and 72 percent have become members or used the sports and fitness facilities, camps, before and after school care or the Art Center on a pay-as-you-go basis.