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County faces added trouble with budget

March 31, 2000|By SCOTT BUTKI

The Washington County Commissioners' annual battle to balance the budget got a little harder this week when they learned they won't be able to impose a transfer tax this year.

As a result, the county general fund shortfall is projected at about $6.2 million instead of the approximately $5.8 million it would have been with anticipated proceeds from a transfer tax, County Administrator Rodney Shoop said Thursday.

It also means the County Commissioners will have to trim about $800,000 from the Capital Improvement Program budget, Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said Thursday.

The County Commissioners will need to raise taxes and/or make cuts to balance the general fund budget, Shoop said.

With a proposed $125 million budget, it probably will be impossible to fully fund the Board of Education's request for $66.2 million, Snook said.

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Snook said he hopes the commissioners can make enough cuts to avoid a tax increase.

The County Commissioners will start cutting the budget during a meeting next Tuesday, he said.

The proposed general fund budget the County Commissioners have discussed in the last few weeks projected $1.2 million in new money from a transfer tax. Of that, about $800,000 would have gone to capital projects, including $600,000 for school board projects, Shoop said.

The remaining $400,000 that would have gone to other projects will now add to the county's general fund shortfall, he said. Those other projects have not been identified.

The transfer tax would have required people to pay 1 percent of the total value of real property transactions. This is in addition to a 1/2 percent transfer tax imposed by the state government.

Initially, County Attorney Richard Douglas believed the county had state authority to impose the tax. After checking more carefully, he determined that the county would need authorization from the Maryland General Assembly.

Shoop said it's too late to try to get that authorization this year. The General Assembly session ends April 10.

The County Commissioners will address the new problem as part of budget discussions Tuesday, Shoop said.

At this week's meeting, the County Commissioners looked at the school board proposed budget but didn't make any cuts, he said.

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