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Some say excise tax bill plan will cost county money

March 16, 2005|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Washington County would lose millions for school construction and road improvement projects under a new proposal that would prevent the commissioners and municipalities from collecting building excise tax revenues until they complete a report on rising property assessments and the availability of workforce housing in the county, some County Commissioners said Tuesday.

According to the proposal, which is part of the excise tax bill, the commissioners would have to submit the report to the Washington County Delegation to the Maryland General Assembly on or before Dec. 31.

The commissioners want to begin collecting the revenue sooner than that - at the start of fiscal year 2006, which begins on July 1.

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"I think we need to collect this July 1. Period," Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said.

Commissioner James F. Kercheval said the county would lose more than $2.5 million for schools, about $1 million for roads and about $150,000 for library projects if it had to wait to collect the revenue.

Public Works Director Gary Rohrer said he thought the loss for roads projects would be about $2 million to $3 million, which is higher than Kercheval's assessment.

"That's crazy that it'll cost that kind of money just to get a report," Kercheval said.

The excise tax is a tax on new construction.

The proposal states that the commissioners would have to study how the county's growth rate is affecting property assessments, study the impact of the excise tax on workforce housing, consider ways to encourage the development of workforce housing by the use of tax credits, tax rebates and other methods.

The commissioners also would have to look at ways to decrease the property tax burden on county taxpayers through options including capping property assessments and providing a tax credit program for senior citizens.

Last week the commissioners scoffed at a proposed bill by the delegation that would create a seven-member commission to study tax assessments in the county.

The commissioners said they thought that they, and not the state, should have that responsibility. They wrote a letter to the delegation and to a House committee to kill the bill. The delegation then included some of the language regarding property assessments in the excise tax bill.

Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell said the new language in the excise tax bill could be a result of the county's letter.

"We took the first shot and now they're taking the second shot," Wivell said.

"No, they took the first shot," Commissioner Doris J. Nipps said of the delegation's decision to create the tax assessments committee bill.

Kercheval said after the meeting that language in the bill should be changed so the county doesn't have to wait to collect the excise tax.

Wivell said after the meeting that the new provision wasn't a big deal.

"The delegation is going to do what it's going to do. I'm not going to get excited about it," he said. "When you get in a peeing contest with a skunk ... you just have to live with it."

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