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Director of permits and inspections recommends bringing back temporary excise tax relief

Commissioners hope reinstating residential stimulus program will boost construction jobs

February 02, 2011|By HEATHER KEELS | heather.keels@herald-mail.com

The Washington County Commissioners are considering bringing back a stimulus program designed to boost residential construction through temporary excise tax relief.

Daniel DiVito, the county's director of permits and inspections, told the commissioners during a work session Tuesday that he recommended reinstating the program, which ran from November 2009 through April 1, 2010.

The previous board created the residential stimulus program in November 2009 in hopes that boosting construction jobs would help address the county's high unemployment rate, which at the time was 10 percent, DiVito said.

In December 2010, the latest month for which data is available, the county's unemployment rate was 10.1 percent.

At the commissioners' Jan. 25 meeting, commissioners President Terry Baker and Commissioner Ruth Anne Callaham both expressed an interest in bringing back the stimulus program. DiVito followed up Tuesday by providing an in-depth report about the previous program's results.

During the 2009-2010 program, eligible homes and additions were granted a credit for the excise tax due on up to 2,500 square feet.

The excise tax is assessed per square foot of new construction and is used to help schools, roads and other infrastructure keep pace with new development.

The projects also received permit fee reductions and a recordation tax break.

The program cost the county $564,998.73 in excise tax credits and uncollected permit fees, but the county still collected $255,974.43 in excise tax and permit fees, DiVito said.

During the program, the county approved permits for 78 new homes, compared to 25 a year before, he said.

DiVito estimated the additional construction saved or created 567 jobs, for a monthly payroll of about $1.4 million attributable to the stimulus program.

The commissioners agreed to vote within the next few weeks on whether to reinstate the program.

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