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Commissioners OK tax rebates for homeowners

April 26, 2006|by TARA REILLY

WASHINGTON COUNTY

The Washington County Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to issue $150 tax rebate checks to 33,000 to 35,000 residential property owners.

Homeowners whose primary residences are in Washington County will receive the checks this summer. The rebates will cost about $5 million, which the commissioners previously agreed to set aside.

They turned down lowering the property tax rate and issuing tax credits.

Commissioner John C. Munson has pushed for a lower tax rate, while Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell proposed tax relief measures that also apply to renters.

"I think what the public wants is a tax cut," Munson said. "They don't want to hear all this other baloney."

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While the rebates were approved, county residents will be paying higher water and sewer bills and landfill fees. The commissioners voted last week to raise those fees and are considering raising planning fees and permits and inspections fees.

The commissioners on Tuesday were given a memo from financial consultant Les Guthorn that stated lowering the tax rate could hurt the county's finances, including negatively affecting the county's bond rating and possibly bringing about the need for a future tax increase.

"I suspect, however, that those who would propose that the tax rate be reduced do not remember or wish to remember how hard the county worked to get its financial house in order nor the steps it took to insure that its financial position remain strong," Guthorn wrote.

The commissioners, by a 3-2 vote, also agreed to set aside $1 million in the fiscal year 2007 budget, which begins July 1, for an income-based homeowners' and renters' tax credit program.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook and Commissioners James F. Kercheval and Doris J. Nipps supported that program.

The program would be an "enhancement" of the state's homeowners' and renters' tax credit program with details to be worked out later, according to a county summary of the discussion.

Nipps proposed the program, while Kercheval suggested that $1 million be allocated in the upcoming budget.

Wivell and Munson said the program would only affect one segment of the county's population, and Wivell feared middle-class residents were being left out of tax relief help.

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