County Council President Jeffrey D. Wilson has urged the county executive to withdraw her proposal to raise a tax paid by home buyers recording mortgages.
County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann has proposedraising the tax, called the recordation tax, by 41 cents per $500 ofmortgage. That tax would rise from $3.30 per $500 of mortgage to $3.71 per $500 of mortgage under the proposal. The tax is also charged for filing court papers and other legal documents.
Larry Klimovitz, Rehrmann's director of administration, said the administration is "absolutely not" considering withdrawing the proposal to raise the recordation tax.
The increase would bring in an estimated $261,000 more for the county, which Rehrmann proposes settingaside to build a new collection center for recyclables and to pay for some of the costs of the expansion of the Scarboro Landfill near Dublin.
In an April 15 memo to Rehrmann, Wilson wrote: "It would be well for the executive branch and legislative branch to omit items which could prove contentious without also being necessary. . . . I would also suggest that you consider withdrawing the recordation tax increase. My sense is that that increase is as dead as a doornail at this point in time and that it will only be one more bone, in this case,major bone of contention unless it is pulled."
In response to theletter, Klimovitz said, "We believe it's in the best interests of the county regardless of whether the council president thinks it's deadas a doornail or contentious."
James M. Jewell, the county treasurer, has said that the biggest drop in county revenue this year has been in recordation taxes.
Records show Harford collected more than$6.8 million last year in recordation taxes. This year, Harford is expected to collect about $6 million in recordation taxes, said Jewell. That would be a drop in revenue of about 13 percent.
Klimovitz said the proposed county budget includes about $3.4 million for environment-related projects. If the council decides not to approve the recordation tax increase, Klimovitz said, cuts would have to be considered from other areas of the budget to pay for the proposed recycling center.
"We need funds to grapple with the growing problem of solid waste and environmental problems that are largely tied to new growth," Klimovitz said. "The $261,000 the increase will bring in would bededicated to environmental matters. It doesn't begin to meet the needs, but it is a start."
Councilwoman Susan B. Heselton, R-DistrictA, said she is concerned that the administration had not yet presented a detailed plan to the council for the proposed recycling center or other environmental programs.
"We don't even have a recycling plan," Heselton said. "I'm not going to give her any money before I know what the program is."
Councilwoman Joanne S. Parrott, R-DistrictB, said she, too, had problems with the proposal.
"I have a problem with the executive branch presenting a budget and along with it legislation that's supposed to raise revenue to balance the budget," said Parrott. "That's putting the thrust of responsibility on the County Council to balance the budget."
Wilson said the recordation tax hike proposal was symbolic of other problems within the administration.
"It's an attempt by the administration to do too much too quickly without public discussion -- and that's a general observation about an awful lot of other issues," said Wilson. "My philosophy of taxation is that the general costs of doing county business should be built into the property tax rate.
"I don't feel an increase in the property tax rate is justified now. But the recordation tax is more hidden -- there's no direct relationship to growth. If you're moving within the county, you also pay a recordation tax, not just if you're moving into the county from Timbuktu."
WHAT OTHERS PAY
Harford Countycharges the second highest recordation tax -- a tax paid when real estate changes hands -- in metropolitan Baltimore. Here's how the various taxes compare. The amount below is levied for each $500 of the mortgage involved.
Location.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .Tax
Anne Arundel County .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. . $3.50
Harford County .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..3.30
Carroll County .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..3.30
Baltimore .. .. .. .. . .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..2.75
Baltimore County .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 2.50
Howard County .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 2.20
.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..SOURCE: Local governments