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Power to grant tax exemptions tops commissioners' wish list

November 22, 2005|by TAMELA BAKER

tammyb@herald-mail.com

The yearly discussion between the Washington County Commissioners and the county's delegation to the General Assembly was comparatively brief this year as the commissioners presented their requests for the upcoming legislative session.

It was a smaller list than last year's, and some of it was a matter of tweaking the weighty - and in some cases no-so-weighty - matters considered last year.

At the top of the list presented Monday was a request for authority to grant exemptions to the excise tax on new development that was revamped last spring.

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"We feel that we need to get some more specific authority to grant exemptions on nonresidential construction," Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said.

Snook said an existing business that wanted to expand asked for an exemption to the tax. Because of the investment and number of new jobs that would be created, the commissioners wanted to grant the exemption but did not believe they had the legal flexibility to do so.

Del. LeRoy Myers, R-Washington/Allegany, said he understood the county's need for such authority but wanted specific guidelines to be in place for determining who gets exemptions.

"I'm just saying to what extent do we go?" Myers asked.

Snook said the Economic Development Commission has established a matrix for granting tax credits to businesses.

That existing businesses would be assessed the tax at all troubled Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington.

"Why are we charging an excise tax on expansions?" he asked. "Is this a drag on our competitiveness?"

Snook said there had been few complaints about the excise tax.

"In general, most (businesses) are supportive of their businesses making a positive impact on the community," he said.

"It's the subjectivity about this that bothers me," Shank said.

"You have to rely on us using some common sense to try to do what's best for the business community," Snook replied.

The commissioners asked for an amendment to the statute allowing tax credits to businesses that create jobs to allow the credit to apply to contractual positions. At present, the enabling legislation allows the credits only for new permanent, full-time positions.

The commissioners asked for legislation or amendments to allow the county to issue civil citations for violations to weed control, code and health department violations. County officials now must go through the courts to enforce the code.

Washington County Sheriff Charles F. Mades asked for authority to appoint more than three fire police per fire company, saying that growth in Boonsboro and Smithsburg has prompted requests for more fire police.

Mades also asked for authority to extend the probationary period for new sheriff's deputies. Maryland code specifies a probationary period of one year.

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