Transfer tax power pursued

January 15, 2003|by TARA REILLY

The Washington County Commissioners on Tuesday decided to ask lawmakers for the authority to impose a transfer tax on real estate transactions to generate additional revenue for school construction projects, public safety and debt reduction.

The County Commissioners have said having the power to impose the tax does not mean they would do so. But they have said some type of alternative revenue source is needed to meet the increased needs of the county.

Commission President Gregory I. Snook said the commissioners would discuss a transfer tax rate and hold a public hearing if the county receives the authority from the state to enact the tax.


The tax would be assessed on the transfers of property. If a 1 percent tax were imposed, the county would get an estimated $1.2 million in additional revenue, county documents state.

Commissioner John C. Munson voted against asking for the authority to impose the tax, while Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell said he didn't support funds from the tax going toward public safety.

Also Tuesday, the commissioners decided to consider a flat fee that would be assessed per property tax bill, with the revenue going toward agricultural preservation and scenic easements.

Wivell, who suggested the flat fee, said the county would have to decide whether to levy the fee on residential, commercial, industrial or agricultural lots.

"I hate to sit here and say I'm advocating another tax ... but if people want that open space, they have to pay for it," Wivell said.

Wivell said there was a cost to develop land and also a cost to preserve it.

Munson voted against pursuing the flat fee. He said last week he doesn't support any new taxes.

The commissioners decided not to ask lawmakers for the authority to impose an excise tax or remove restrictions on impact fees.

Impact fees are collected from developers on new construction. The fees help pay for the expanded public services needed because of growth. The county has had the authority to collect impact fees since 1990, but it has not done so because of restrictions that govern where the fees can be collected and how the money can be spent.

An excise tax 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.

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