Consumers who do their shopping in the city could find themselves paying slightly more for such items as refrigerators, kitchen stoves, disposable diapers and auto tires under a bill being prepared for consideration by the City Council.
The legislation would add a wholesale distributor tax to these items and others and could generate approximately $3.5 million in new revenue for the city.
These items, most of which are not recyclable, end up being dumped in municipal waste disposal sites. The tax would, in effect, offset the cost to the city of collecting and disposing of the items.
It could mean that a consumer buying a set of new tires in the city would wind up paying $4 more.
The legislation is being considered as one way of reducing the city's property tax rate by 10 cents for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1. The city's current tax rate is $5.95 per $100 of assessed value, the highest in the state.
Councilman Anthony J. Ambridge, D-2nd, who intends to introduce the bill, said it would broaden the single item tax the council levied on beverage containers 16 months ago. The council is set to take final action Monday on a bill to repeal the beverage container tax as of May 31.
If repeal is approved, Ambridge said, the council could still resurrect the container tax at a later time, but would probably do it at half its present rate. That would lower the levy from 4 cents to 2 cents for 16-ounce bottles and cans and from 2 cents to 1 cent on smaller containers. That would lower the annual revenue from the tax from about $7 million to $3.5 million.
"Bottle industry representatives told us they would not have a problem with a reduced container tax so long as their products were not the only waste products being taxed," said Ambridge. "This will test their willingness to cooperate."
The council is also expected to give preliminary approval Monday to legislation that would impose a tipping fee service charge of $10 a ton on solid waste disposed of at municipal incinerators and landfills. Various estimates on revenue generated by this surcharge range from $4.5 million to $8 million yearly.
Ambridge said the waste products he is looking to tax and the annual revenue they would generate could include:
* Large appliances such as refrigerators and kitchen stoves, $2 per appliance, $276,000.
* Vehicular tires, $1 per tire, $680,000.
* Vehicular batteries, $1, #210,000.
* Disposable diapers, half a cent a diaper, $260,000 annually.
* Household cleaning materials, 1 cent, $70,000.
The wholesale distributor tax would be paid by the retailer and passed on to the consumer.
Ambridge said the goal is to have this wholesale distributor tax become a regional levy with the surrounding counties approving the same taxes.
Ambridge said he was going to circulate among the council the list of proposed items to be taxed in order to get members' response before submitting his bill.
Together, the tipping fee, the reduced beverage container tax and the proposed wholesale distributor tax could bring in approximately $13 million in added revenue annually to Baltimore.
Ambridge said the additional revenues could allow the council to reduce the city's property tax rate by 10 cents for the fiscal year beginning July 1.
Council members are divided on whether to use the extra revenue to reduce the tax rate or restore money to critical areas such as education and police protection.
"We need to send our taxpayers a clear message that the council is serious about relieving their tax burden," said Councilman Carl Stokes, D-2nd.
Councilwoman Jacqueline F. McLean, D-2nd, said she favors using the additional revenue to increase funding for education and police protection and putting "some of it into a surplus fund because, right now, the city has no budget surplus."