Public Hearings On Budget Bring Nothing New

May 10, 1991|By Samuel Goldreich | Samuel Goldreich,Staff writer

Some asked for lower taxes. More pleaded for their favorite programs. But nobody had anything new to say Wednesday night, when the CountyCouncil opened its fiscal 1992 budget hearings to public comment.

Few people complained about the increase in property taxes included in County Executive Robert R. Neall's plan, about $90 per average household.

Neall recommended keeping the tax rate at $2.46 per $100 of assessed value, the lowest in the Baltimore-Washington area. But the county would reap a $22.6 million increase in property tax revenues through rising assessments and new construction.

John H. Griffin, chairman of the Annapolis Fair Tax Committee, argued that some of that money should be given back to Annapolis residents.

"I'm calling for a redistribution of the taxes," he explained.

Griffin's group was formed 20 years ago to push lowering the county property tax rate assessed in Annapolis, where residents also pay to support city services.

Annapolis residents pay only $1.31 per $100 to the county but another $1.80 to the city. The committee had limited success against the county in the state Court of Special Appeals, but Griffin insists that the tax differential should be increased.

Only 31 people signed up to testify, less than half the number at similar hearings last year. Most wanted to protect programs ranging from the farmers market tothe Annapolis Symphony Orchestra.

"That's what the campaign was about last year, managing in hard times," said former Democratic councilman Theodore J. Sophocleus, whom Neall defeated.

He argued both for tax cuts and his own list of programs.

He said Neall should reconsider plans to buy two office buildings for $13.2 million as part of plans to build a Circuit Court house.

The Anne Arundel Taxpayers Association did not testify. AATA President Robert Schaeffer said the group won't attend public comment hearings Monday and Tuesday at Old Mill High School. The group will appeal for lower taxes at the property tax rate hearing Thursday night in council chambers, but it supports Neall's planned tax reform commission.

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