History of the Town of Bel Air

Originally known as "Scott's Old Fields" Bel Air was part of a land grant issued to Daniel Scott in 1731. In March 1782 "Belle Aire" was designated the county seat of Harford County. At the turn of the twentieth century the "e" was dropped and the second "l" and its companion "e" gave way a few years later. The town's incorporation was effective in 1874.

The town began with just 42 lots along Main Street centering on the Court House and the county jail and sheriff's house. Over the years, the population grew slowly to about 200 residents by 1865. The introduction of the canning industry, the Ma & Pa railroad and related financial businesses jump started the growth after the Civil War. Although the town experienced periods of rapid growth followed by extremely slow growth over the next century, Bel Air's role as the center of government and commerce continued to expand. For a detailed history of the Town see Marilynn M. Larew's book, Bel Air an Architectural and Cultural History 1782 – 1945.

Since 1980, the town and its surrounding suburbs have grown substantially. Today, Bel Air is the center for governmental, educational, cultural, medical, and commercial institutions in the county.

Town Government

Bel Air has a Council-Manager form of government, headed by a board of five commissioners. These men and women are elected for four year terms and serve for a modest salary. Serving the Board of Town Commissioners is a professional staff consisting of a Town Administrator and six departments, including Administration/Human Resources, Finance, Economic Development, Public Works and Town Police. The Town Administrator serves at the pleasure of the Board of Commissioners. The Town Administrator directs and supervises all departments and is the Town's Chief Executive Officer and serves in the capacity of Treasurer. Several volunteer Boards and Commissions also serve the Town Board in an advisory capacity.

Town Tax Rates From 1941 to Present
Year(s) Tax Rate
1941, 1942
1953, 1954
1955, 1956
1958, 1959
$0.50 (six months), $1.00 (six months)
1965, 1966
1972, 1973
1985, 1986

Taxes figured on 100% assessment as of FY 2002. As of FY 2002, real property taxes were assessed at the property's full estimated actual value; previously real property taxes were assessed at 40% of the property's estimated actual value. Accordingly, the tax rates were adjusted to maintain the effective tax rate.
Tax Rate
2002, 2003
$0.44 real, $1.10 personal
$0.50 real, $1.16 personal