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Fees, taxes rise in county

July 01, 2004|by TAMELA BAKER

tammyb@herald-mail.com

If you live in Washington County, as of today it will cost you more to register your car, dispose of garbage at the county landfill (unless you're carting a ton of the stuff) and turn on your faucet.

And if you live in Hagerstown, you'll also be paying more for building permits, forgetting to pay a parking ticket or getting a permit for the parking deck.

While most of these fee increases are comparatively small, the state slapped a nearly 60 percent increase on the cost of two-year car registrations, which rise from $81 for most passenger vehicles to $128. For large pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles, the fee goes from $108 to $180.

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State officials estimate the fee increases will generate an additional $165 million for the state's transportation spending.

Locally, developers are taking a hit as the fees for new construction increase in both Hagerstown and Washington County. The Washington County Commissioners approved an excise tax in June 2003, and while the tax on construction of multi-family housing units will remain at $1 per square foot, the rate on single-family home construction goes up to 50 cents per square foot for fiscal year 2005, which begins today, and 75 cents in fiscal year 2006.

In Hagerstown, engineering and planning fees for new construction are going up, as are fees for zoning appeals. And the planning department has created a new fee for zoning verification.

Water and sewer rates go up by 3 percent for county residents today. The sewer bill for an average residential customer, defined by the county as someone who uses 12,000 gallons of water per quarter, will be about $3 more per quarter for fiscal 2005. The average water bill will increase by about $3.28.

Most landfill permit fees go up today. Fees increase from $75 to $90 per year for senior citizens, and from $105 to $120 per year for other county residents. The fee for users who drop off a ton or more of household garbage decreases, from $45 per ton to $39. Users bringing rubble and building debris will pay $39 per ton, up from $35. Haulers who dispose of 4,000 or more tons of trash per year, such as municipalities and local government agencies, will pay $39 per ton, up from $36.

The City of Hagerstown wins the prize for the most tax and fee changes effective today. They include property tax hikes, two new fees and an increase to nearly 30 others.

And that new state flush tax for all public sewer customers? Relax - it's not effective until January.

But a local bill approved by the Maryland General Assembly creating a "Washington County Water and Sewer Infrastructure Commission" goes into effect today.

Its mission is to study long-term needs in the county, and it is required to file an interim report by Jan. 1, 2005, and a final report by June 30, 2006, to the Washington County Delegation, the county commissioners and the Hagerstown City Council.

Staff writers Tara Reilly and Gregory T. Simmons contributed to this story.

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