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Commissioners weigh tax options

Four of the five county commissioners say they would consider imposing either a transfer tax or an excise tax in order to create

Four of the five county commissioners say they would consider imposing either a transfer tax or an excise tax in order to create

January 08, 2003|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY - All but one of the Washington County Commissioners said Tuesday they would consider some type of tax on real estate transactions, but they did not take a final vote on which taxes to pursue with local delegation members.

The commissioners have been discussing whether to ask state lawmakers for legislation that would give the county the authority to impose a transfer tax or an excise tax to increase revenues without raising property taxes.

The county has had the authority to collect impact fees since 1990, but it has not done so because of restrictions in place that govern where the fees can be collected and how the money can be spent.

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Commissioner John C. Munson was the lone commissioner who opposed all tax alternatives, saying the citizens are "fed up with taxes."

"That's not the answer to any of our problems, and I won't vote for one ever," Munson said.

County officials say a 1 percent transfer tax, which is a tax on real estate transactions, could generate $1.2 million in revenue that could go toward capital projects for education, urban redevelopment, agricultural and historic preservation and other projects.

An excise tax also is charged on new development, but it doesn't have the restrictions that impact fees do. An excise tax would give the commissioners more flexibility in spending the money, officials have said.

Impact fees are fees collected from developers on new construction. The fees help pay for the expanded public services needed because of growth.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said he would support a transfer tax if the county's recordation tax were lowered and that an excise tax is worth looking into. Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell said he would support a transfer tax if the county put restrictions on borrowing and used the revenue from the tax to decrease the county's debt.

Wivell suggested other options, including putting a flat fee on agricultural preservation assessments to generate additional revenue.

Commissioner Doris J. Nipps said she would consider asking the local delegation to remove the restrictions on impact fees and also consider an excise tax.

Commissioner James F. Kercheval said he wouldn't mind having the authority to impose the taxes in case they are ever needed.

The commissioners have said that having the power to enact the taxes doesn't mean they would actually do so.

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