Eleven chosen for Excise Task Force

June 20, 2007|by JOSHUA BOWMAN

The Washington County Commissioners on Tuesday appointed 11 members to the county's Excise Task Force.

The task force will be responsible for recommending a new county excise-tax structure by Sept. 30, according to a bill the Maryland General Assembly approved this year.

The commissioners must still appoint two more task force members, one from the Washington County Board of Education and one from the Maryland Municipal League's local chapter, which represents the county's municipalities. Both groups will make nominations to the commissioners, who will appoint the final two members.

The commissioners unanimously approved the 11 appointments Tuesday and will ask John Schnebly, a former Hagerstown city councilman and Washington County commissioner, to chair the task force.


The specific responsibilities of the task force will be laid out by the commissioners after the remaining members are appointed and the chair has met with departmental representatives and the Director of the Economic Development Commission.

Under the current excise tax, the fees for nonresidential construction vary by industry and square footage. They range from 20 cents per square foot to $4 per square foot.

For residential construction, the fee for subdivisions of 25 units or fewer is $13,000 for a single-family home and $15,500 per unit for multifamily homes. The fee doubles for subdivisions of more than 25 units.

The commissioners might change those fees July 1, when the excise-tax cap on new residential construction will be lifted. County Administrator Gregory Murray said he would be surprised if the commissioners changed the tax before the task force submitted its report.

"With so much of the tax going toward school construction, arbitrarily changing it could be detrimental," Murray said.

Sixty percent of the excise tax revenue goes toward school construction.

The commissioners chose members of a variety of groups to serve on the task force, including homeowners, development industry representatives, a banker, an attorney, a Realtor and a state delegate.

Murray said he expects the commissioners to have nominees for the remaining positions by the commissioners' July 10 meeting.

Task force members

· Edward Forrest (homeowner)

· Brian Lautenslager (Washington County Home Builders' Association)

· Mike Deming (urban developer)

· John Schnebly (Economic Development Board)

· Frank Erck (banking representative)

· Jason Divelbiss (land-use attorney)

· Tamara Austerman (Realtor)

· Ivory Mann (citizen/at-large appointment)

· Keith Scheer (citizen/at-large appointment)

· Del. Leroy Myers (R-Allegany/Washington)

· Sherry Brown Cooper (Habitat for Humanity)

Board of Education and Maryland Municipalities League members will be appointed at a later date.

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