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County staff wants excise tax reporting requirement dropped

September 30, 2005|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

Washington County staff members say the county has no way to keep track of how much money the excise tax generates per school attendance area, so they've asked the County Commissioners to ask state lawmakers to drop the requirement from the tax law.

Some commissioners said they told the local delegation to the Maryland General Assembly last year they agreed to the reporting requirement. They directed staff on Tuesday to look for a way to comply with it.

"There's nothing of value derived from that," Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell said of the requirement at Tuesday's commissioners meeting.

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Wivell called the requirement "government bureaucracy at its finest."

A large portion of excise tax revenue goes toward school construction projects needed because of growth in the county.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook asked the commissioners at Tuesday's meeting if he thought they'd be successful in having the requirement removed.

"Yes," Commissioner John C. Munson said.

"No way," Commissioner Doris J. Nipps said.

County Attorney John Martirano said Thursday by phone he wasn't sure why the delegation made it part of the statute.

Martirano said staff wasn't opposed to the requirement, but that the county doesn't have a system in place to track the amount generated by school attendance area.

"If we can't come up with a reasonable method, then we can at least say we tried," Snook said Tuesday.

Martirano said he thought staff already had looked for a way to track the information, but "they couldn't find a way to do it."

The excise tax, a flat fee typically ranging from $13,000 to $15,000 per residential unit, is charged to new construction in the county.

Money raised from the excise tax is to be used for capital projects driven by new development in the county, such as school and road construction. Some of the money will be earmarked for projects of the Washington County Free Library, and some will be set aside for public safety and for parks and recreation.

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