Washington County extends excise tax waiver

September 13, 2011|By HEATHER KEELS |
  • Jennifer M. Smith, Washington County director of plan review and permitting, left, spoke to the county commissioners Tuesday about extending the residential stimulus program. At right is Angela Smith, the county's deputy director of permits.
By Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN — The Washington County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to extend the county’s residential stimulus program through June 30, 2012.

The program, which waives the first $9,000 of excise tax due on residential building-permit applications, was set to expire on Oct. 31.

“The goal of the program is to encourage job growth by stimulating residential home construction projects,” said Jennifer M. Smith, county director of plan review and permitting.

Smith said the number of housing starts in the county has been higher with the stimulus program in place and encouraged the commissioners to extend it through the winter and spring construction seasons to prevent a drop-off in construction jobs.

During the first six months of the current stimulus program, which began March 1, the county approved permits for 61 homes and 53 additions, Smith said. That is similar to the totals from a previous six-month stimulus program from November 2009 through April 2010, when the county approved 78 homes and 51 additions, she said.

For comparison, during a six-month period with no stimulus program from November 2008 through April 2009, the county approved 25 single family homes and 42 additions.

During the two stimulus program periods, the county has awarded about $1.04 million in excise tax credits, or about 73 percent of the excise tax due on qualifying permits, Smith said.

Excise tax — a base rate of $3 per square foot on residential construction — is used to help fund schools, roads, parks and other services associated with population growth.

The stimulus program provides a credit for the excise tax due on up to 3,000 square feet, or $9,000.

There was a cap of six permits per developer eligible for the credit under the eight-month program that was to run through Oct. 31, but the commissioners agreed that with the eight-month extension, that total would double to 12 permits per developer over the full 16-month program.

Two applicants had already reached the six-permit limit, and six others were getting close to it, Smith said.

The decision to extend the residential stimulus comes two weeks after the commissioners approved a separate stimulus program making it easier for developers to create pad-ready sites for commercial and industrial uses.

The program extended Tuesday applies to residential construction permits for one- and two-family homes and residential additions.

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