In its first public hearing last night, Baltimore County Executive Roger B. Hayden's Committee on Tax Equity got an earful from people who want no new property taxes.
Never mind that the forum was scheduled to gather citizens' ideas for new revenue sources.
The 60 people who attended, many of them angry about increased assessments, wanted to make clear that they're fed up with the government wasting their money.
"What makes me angry is the millions of dollars spent for programs that we don't need," said Fred Lang, one of two dozen speakers.
The hearing at Loch Raven Senior High School was intended to hear suggestions for reducing the county's reliance on the property tax, which now raises 42 percent of the $848.5 million general fund operating budget.
"We want to open up the government to the citizens," the committee chairman, Larry M. Epstein, said to open the meeting.
But what followed were citizens' complaints about topics ranging from the Linowes commission recommendations to the complexity of property tax assessment notices.
The only actual suggestion for replacing the property tax came from Phillip Korb of Knottis Hall, who said the county should charge user fees for such things as library cards and senior citizens centers.
"I happen to be a sports fan, and when I go to an event I have to buy a ticket," he noted.
His suggestion drew criticism from Jennifer Jones, who said she represents county hotels. She complained that the 8 percent tax levied on hotel room charges has not benefited the hotel industry.
Kathy Steen, a northern Baltimore County resident, said people may be reluctant to suggest alternatives to the property tax because they fear those suggestions will not replace property taxes, but be added to them.
"When has government added a tax and then removed another one?" she asked. "If we make a new taxes, they're just going to spend more money."
The panel is to schedule other hearings before giving Mr. Hayden its recommendations, which are due June 30.