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County considers tax relief measures

April 22, 2006|By TARA REILLY

WASHINGTON COUNTY

The Washington County Commissioners continue to grapple with how to distribute $5 million they set aside for tax relief.

At a budget workshop Wednesday, the County Commissioners could not agree on whether to mail $100 tax rebates to residential property owners, issue tax credits or reduce the property tax rate.

That could change on Tuesday.

Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell said Friday the commissioners might make a decision during budget talks at Tuesday's meeting.

"I think it'll have to come up during our budget talks," Wivell said.

Commissioner Doris J. Nipps, however, said Friday she thought the commissioners should hold off making a decision until after taxpayers have the opportunity to comment on the county's proposed budget at a public hearing in May.

Commissioner John C. Munson, who strongly has favored cutting taxes, proposed shaving as much as 7 1/2 cents off the tax rate at Wednesday's workshop.

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The current tax rate is 94.8 cents per $100 of assessed value.

The commissioners took no action on Munson's or the other proposals at the meeting.

Munson said cutting the tax rate would cost the county $6.8 million. But with the $5 million that's set aside, the commissioners only would have to come up with $1.8 million, he said.

With increased tax revenue from increased growth, Munson said that shouldn't be a problem. Or, Munson said the commissioners could cut the county budget to come up with the money.

Wivell said he thought there were enough votes on the five-member board to agree on a 4-cent tax reduction.

The commissioners originally talked about mailing rebate checks or issuing tax credits on property tax bills, but County Treasurer Todd Hershey said both would cause an administrative nightmare.

Wivell has lobbied for tax relief measures that affect not only residential property owners, but also renters. He said, however, it appears the easiest way to provide tax relief would be to cut the property tax rate.

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