ANNAPOLIS – The Carroll County General Assembly delegation denied a county request for a new real estate transfer tax, saying it would revisit the issue next year when budget issues are more settled.
The seven-member delegation met Thursday to discuss its agenda for the legislative session.
The rejected tax would have funded the county Board of Education, emergency medical services and police patrols, said Board of County Commissioners President Julia W. Gouge.
Carroll County is one of few counties in the region without a transfer tax. A similar transfer tax was approved by the neighboring Howard County delegation, and a bill has been introduced this session.
Delegates for Carroll County passed on the proposal, saying it was unclear how much revenue the tax would produce and how the money would be allocated.
Legislators and officials have been debating how much money the tax will raise, with estimates ranging between $3 million and $15 million dollars.
The delegation decided that an additional $10 million the governor plans to give the county along with taxes already in place can get the county through until the proposal is reconsidered next year.
“With budgets in the flux that they are, on the state and local level, I think we’d have a better picture of the situation next year,” said Delegate Donald B. Elliot, R-Carroll.
Opinions of citizens at a public hearing on the issue were split roughly in half, with slightly more against a new tax.
Public reluctance to increased taxes, along with limited time for dialogue, was a factor in the decision to hold the bill, said Sen. Robert H. Kittleman, R-Howard.
To prevent a revenue drought, the delegation turned down a sister proposal to put an annual 5 percent cap on property tax increases. Currently, the county has a 10 percent cap, which some say is a burden to people on fixed incomes.
County officials say not having the transfer tax will financially stress the county. Plans for a new library and senior center might have to be scrapped, and the county’s waning volunteer fire department might not receive much needed paid reinforcements, said Gouge.
The possibility of inadequate funding for Thornton education mandates and required all-day kindergarten legislation passing in the assembly present a fiscal problem for the county’s schools.
“If they force that with state legislation, we don’t have the money to do that without the transfer tax,” said Gouge.
Other proposals that received the delegations’ support include a bill to deregulate the county’s microbrewery industry, and a tobacco-products display bill that aims to keep cigarettes and other tobacco products behind the counter, in order to prevent exposure to children.
A request to more than double school board salaries after 5 years of no increases was denied. Instead, the delegation agreed on an increase from $3,000 to $5,000 for general members and from $3,500 to $6,000 for the board president.
A bill to increase the number of fund-raising raffles allowed for community organizations is also on the agenda.
An abatement-of-nuisance bill will allow weeds to grow on unplanted farmland and on some county lands.
The delegation is drafting a bond authorization proposal, but will not introduce it until after a meeting with county authorities next week. -30- CNS-1