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Transfer tax vote delayed again

February 01, 2001

Transfer tax vote delayed again



By LAURA ERNDE / Staff Writer


ANNAPOLIS - The Washington County delegation to the Maryland General Assembly once again delayed voting on a controversial new transfer tax Wednesday while its chairman tries to drum up support for a compromise.

Delegation Chairman Del. Robert A. McKee has shelved a vote on the tax so far this legislative session because he knows that there aren't enough votes for it to pass.

Sen. Alex X. Mooney, R-Frederick/Washington, and Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, suggested the delegation take a vote Wednesday.

"I'm not entertaining a motion," said McKee, R-Washington.

The Washington County Commissioners proposed adding a 1 percent transfer tax to real estate transactions, which are already taxed 1/2 percent by the state.

The county wants to use the estimated $1.2 million the tax would raise for education, urban redevelopment and agricultural and historic preservation projects.

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McKee is suggesting a 1/2 percent county transfer tax that would expire in two years. The proceeds, an estimated $600,000 a year, would be used only for school construction.

The bill has been drafted for the Maryland General Assembly, but can't be filed without a majority of the delegation's support.

McKee can't delay the vote for long. Next week there's a key bill filing deadline.

The Washington County Commissioners said education is their top priority and the main reason they were asking for the money.

If the tax doesn't pass, the county might have to consider raising property taxes, which are among the lowest in the state, Commissioner John L. Schnebly said.

Schnebly was critical of opponents, saying they don't understand the financial realities of running the county.

Many county schools are more than 50 years old and a recent school consolidation proposal, while it would save money in the long run, has a price tag up front, he said.

Gov. Parris Glendening has put record amounts of state money into school construction during the last six years of his administration. Washington County officials say they need the money to leverage more from the state.

Fifteen counties and Baltimore City collect a local transfer tax, according to the Maryland Association of Counties.

While the delegation didn't act on the transfer tax Wednesday, it did vote to make a small change to the county's hotel tax.

The commissioners had wanted to keep 5 percent of hotel tax profits to cover the cost of collecting the tax.

Instead, the delegation voted to allow them to take the actual costs out of their 50 percent share.

Otherwise, the administrative costs would cut into the budget of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau, which gets half of the hotel tax profits.

The change must be approved by the Maryland General Assembly.

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