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Municipalities could get part of transfer tax

Legislators told Hagerstown officials that the city must settle its lawsuit with the county over a sewer flow agreement if they

Legislators told Hagerstown officials that the city must settle its lawsuit with the county over a sewer flow agreement if they

February 07, 2003|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

ANNAPOLIS - Local lawmakers are working on a deal to give municipal governments, including the city of Hagerstown, a slice of Washington County's proposed transfer tax.

But one condition is that the city settle a lawsuit with the county over a sewer flow agreement. Unless it's resolved soon, lawmakers fear the city risks losing a $500,000 state grant.

Last week, the Washington County delegation to the Maryland General Assembly voted to seek legislation authorizing a real estate transfer tax of up to 0.5 percent. That would translate into $750 on a $150,000 house.

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The county would use the money largely for renovating aging schools.

On Wednesday, Hagerstown officials came to Annapolis to argue for a share of the proceeds.

Although some lawmakers questioned the city's need, Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, said Thursday that lawmakers have forged a compromise that allows municipalities to get a cut of the tax money for public safety, he said.

The city would have to work with the county to resolve the lawsuit, he said.

An independent commission would be appointed to help the city and county find ways to save money, he said.

Mayor William M. Breichner said he was pleased with the compromise.

"I don't know how big a portion, but at least that's encouraging," Breichner said.

Lawmakers were not inclined, however, to give the city a guaranteed share of Washington County's 6 percent hotel-motel tax proceeds, as the city had asked.

The county distributes a portion of the money for tourism, economic development and cultural and recreational projects.

Breichner had argued that the tax has become a "slush fund" the county uses to give money to various clubs and organizations.

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