Washington County not alone in take increases

August 05, 2000

Washington County not alone in take increases

By SCOTT BUTKI / Staff Writer

Fifteen counties, including Washington County, raised taxes or fees this year, according to an analysis by the Maryland Association of Counties.

And 10 counties, including Washington County, raised income or property tax rates for the current fiscal year, said Michael Sanderson, legislative director for MACO.

That is out of 24 county governments and the city of Baltimore,

The Washington County Commissioners raised the property tax rate 6 cents to $2.37.

They also voted to increase the county's income tax rate from 2.51 to 2.88 percent. That rate replaced the state piggyback tax when it was eliminated by the Maryland General Assembly.

They also increased the cost of a dumping permit for the Resh Sanitary Landfill to $75 a year on July 1. That was a $50 increase for cars and a $25 increase for trucks.


The commissioners also doubled the hotel-motel tax to 6 percent from 3 percent.

The statistics show that Washington County wasn't alone in its actions, Sanderson said.

The tax increases are frustrating for elected officials, none of whom ran on a platform of raising taxes, Sanderson said.

Washington County Administrator Rodney Shoop said the MACO analysis substantiates what he said during the budget process earlier this year: Revenue shortfalls for counties is widespread in Maryland.

Increased education funding is part of that problem, Shoop said. It's a problem he hopes is addressed at a MACO conference later this month.

The Washington County Board of Education this year received $63.8 million for operating expenses, a $4.1 million increase over last year. That is out of a $169.3 million annual budget.

The No. 1 question county officials are asking MACO is how to explain to citizens why they are having financial trouble requiring tax increases at a time when the economy is good for state and federal governments, Sanderson said.

What it stems from is the difference in revenue structure between the federal and state governments and local government, Sanderson said.

The federal and state governments get most of their money from income and sales tax, he said. When there is growth in the economy and people are earning money, taxable income and sales tax proceeds increase, he said.

The counties don't get sales tax proceeds.

The biggest revenue source for most local governments - often at least half of their revenue - come from property tax revenues, Sanderson said.

The property tax revenue doesn't increase just because the economy improves, he said. That is why the counties aren't benefiting as much as the state and federal government is, he said.

It is too soon to say if counties will have to raise taxes again for the next fiscal year, but many officials are hoping painful tax increases this year will be sufficient, he said.

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