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Mayor says hotel-motel tax has become 'slush fund'

February 06, 2003|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

Hagerstown Mayor William M. Breichner said Wednesday the city should have control over a portion of Washington County's hotel-motel tax because it has become a "slush fund."

In a meeting with the Washington County delegation to the Maryland General Assembly, Breichner listed some of the organizations that received grants last year, including a model railroad club, a garden club and Hagerstown's Sister City Foundation.

Lawmakers increased the tax from 3 percent to 6 percent three years ago to raise money in part for a baseball stadium.

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The stadium was never built, but the law requires the county to spend 55 percent of the tax on tourism, economic development or cultural and recreational projects.

"Suddenly it's become a slush fund, quite frankly," Breichner said. "I think we need to have a little bit better idea of what we're getting."

Last year the city got $5,000 from the $575,000 fund.

"That's hardly reasonable, to tell you the truth," he said.

But Washington County Commissioner William Wivell said in the two previous years Hagerstown received nearly half of the fund.

"If you look at the history, there has been a fair and equitable distribution of the hotel-motel tax," Wivell said.

Breichner asked the delegation for 28 percent of the hotel-motel tax proceeds, with that number based on population.

"We would be much more comfortable with a set formula rather than be at the mercy of the County Commissioners," Breichner said.

Lawmakers did not comment on the request at the meeting.

Delegation Chairman Del. Robert A. McKee, R-Washington, said lawmakers will discuss the issue.

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