Tax-cap proposal threatens capital spending, officials say

October 01, 1990|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Evening Sun Staff

If Baltimore County voters approve all $200 million for capital spending on the Nov. 6 ballot, and also vote for the 2 percent property-tax cap, the county won't be able to spend $28 million of the money, the county budget office says.

In addition, $13.5 million in operating budget money used for capital projects will have to be cut over the next two years, said budget director Fred Homan.

The $28 million, Homan said, would be cut because of the lessened borrowing power the county would have due to lower income from the cap. The other $13.5 million reduction would come from cash the county had planned to spend on capital projects, but that would have dried up with the cap, he said.

In addition, the county will have to pay a higher interest rate to borrow money in the 1992 election referendum, because the county will no longer be able to assure bond purchasers that their bonds are backed by the county's unlimited taxing power.

John O'Neill, a leader of the tax-cap drive, dismisses Homan's figures as "scare tactics and blowing things out of whack."

O'Neill claims the tax cap petition, which the state Court of Appeals rewrote while approving it last month, contains a provision that exempts interest on bonds from the 2 percent cap. He argues that the cap wouldn't apply to bonds on the November ballot anyway because even if approved, the tax cap won't take effect until after the election.

Homan and County Attorney Arnold Jablon say the provision is vague and provides no clear way to raise taxes to pay the interest debt.

Voters will have to decide whether to approve the 2 percent cap, a controversial referendum question that supporters feel will help rein in government spending and that opponents fear will force drastic cuts in services. A less restrictive tax revenue cap will be before voters in Anne Arundel County as well.

Voters give the county authorization to sell bonds and spend the money. The county is not required to actually spend the money, however, and can cut the projects if the money's not there.

If cuts to the county's record $200 million bond issue have to be made, the choices may be difficult.

Voters will be asked to support or reject:

* $80 million worth of public works borrowing for roads, bridges and utilities.

* $46 million for new buildings or renovations to older county government facilities.

* $40 million worth of school projects.

* $9.6 million for trash disposal projects.

* $7.4 million for waterway improvements.

* $7 million for community colleges.

Smaller amounts, ranging from $4.8 million to $500,000, would go for neighborhood projects, parks and recreation, senior centers and libraries.

Much of the amount, which is $90 million more than authorized by voters in the 1988 election, would go for several expensive projects:

* $20.4 million for Sparrows Point fire academy, maintenance garage and fire station.

* $14 million to replace leaking school roofs.

* $10.6 million for new roads in Owings Mills.

* $10 million as the county contribution to the new light rail line between Hunt Valley and Glen Burnie.

* $8.8 million for Sparks Elementary and Hereford High renovations.

* $7.1 million for a new Mays Chapel Elementary.

* $5.6 million to cap the closed Hernwood landfill.

* $5.5 million for alley repairs and curb and gutter repaving countywide.

* $4.8 million for a new Eastern Family Resource Center.

* $4.5 million for detention center addition.

* $3.3 million for emergency replacement of aging and unsafe bridges.

* $3.2 for asbestos removal.

* $2 million for infrastructure for affordable housing.

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