County budget hearing Wednesday at HJC

May 13, 1997


Staff Writer

County residents will have an opportunity to comment on Washington County's proposed budget, including a $3 million property and income tax increase, at the Kepler Theater at Hagerstown Junior College Wednesday at 7 p.m.

Individuals will have three minutes to speak on the budget and groups five minutes, county officials said. Speakers will not be required to sign up, officials said.

Instead, residents will be called on section by section until all have had the opportunity to speak. The theater seats 442 people, county officials said.


The commissioners voted 3-1 to raise the property tax by 10 cents and the piggyback income tax rate from 50 percent to 54 percent.

The commissioners want more money for schools, the county jail, water and sewer subsidies, administration and salaries.

The tax increases have prompted one county resident, George Curtin, to consider forming a new political party in favor of lower taxes. Curtin, a naval intelligence officer, took out an advertisement on The Back Page of Saturday's Herald-Mail and said his phone has been ringing off the hook with support.

"They are going to tax people out of their homes for one thing, just like Montgomery County, (Md.)" said Curtin, who commutes to his job in Northern Virginia. "That's why I left Montgomery County," he said.

"I've seen so much waste in county government, it makes me sick," he said. He said people shouldn't have to move to West Virginia to find an affordable place to live.

Curtin said he would like to institute a cap on property taxes like Prince George's County.

Under Washington County's proposed budget, the property tax would increase from $2.21 per $100 in assessed value to $2.31. The average homeowner with a $92,600 house would pay $35 more a year.

The last tax increase came in 1992, when the tax rate rose from $2.13 to $2.21.

The increase in the piggyback income tax rate, which is based on the state income tax, would raise county tax bills by 8 percent and would bring in an additional $614,000 next year. The average taxpayer, with taxable earnings of $23,881, would pay $48 more a year.

The county budget includes $3.7 million to subsidize the Water and Sewer Department, a $1 million increase. The additional subsidy will help keep sewer rate increases lower and pay for a $1 million deficit at the county's industrial pretreatment plant. If new business isn't generated at the plant, the county general fund will have to kick in $8.16 million through 2003 to cover deficits.

The county's proposed budget also includes an additional $1.9 million for the Board of Education and $1 million to pay for food, health care and 12 new deputies at the Washington County Detention Center.

The tax increase won't become final until the commissioners vote on a final budget.

The Herald-Mail Articles