County Panel On Taxation Already Finds Work Taxing

Starts Search Forways To Reduce Reliance On Property Taxes

July 31, 1991|By Paul Shread | Paul Shread,Staff writer

A commission studying ways to reduce the county's reliance on property taxes couldn't get through its introductions without disagreeing.

The 16-member commission was created by County Executive Robert R.Neall in return for the Anne Arundel Taxpayers Association's promisenot to oppose his 1992 budget.

At its first meeting Monday night, the chairman, Sen. John A. Cade, R-Severna Park, asked members to introduce themselves and say whatthey would like the commission to do.

Annapolis attorney John R. Greiber Jr., who defended the AATA's proposed tax cap against a county court challenge last year, said the commission's goal should be to limit government spending. "At some point, government has to learn tolive off the money we can provide," Greiber said.

Joseph DiNunno,also an association member, said he hopes to spend the rest of his life in Annapolis. "But with rising property taxes, I'm not sure if it's going to be possible," he said. "I'm ticked off at my government."

"I hope you'll be able to control your emotions long enough to help us get some work done," Cade said.

"I'm not that ticked off," DiNunno replied.

By the time the introductions got to Paul Greksa of Odenton, a school board member and retired county Public Works and Budget Office employee, the discussion had become a debate. "What they say goes way beyond our charge, and I hope we can resolve that tonight," Greksa said.

Cade later said he hopes the committee sticks to its mission, for the most part. That assignment, outlined in a letter to commission members, is to search for alternative sources of revenue to reduce the county's reliance on property taxes.

The committee will issue a preliminary report by Dec. 1, in time to influence next year's budget process. The final report will be issued Jan 1.

If Monday's meeting is any indication, the committee won't have an easy time reaching consensus. Its members come from diverse backgrounds: four taxpayers' association members, a school board member, social services and health-care workers, county officials, a developer, an Annapolis alderman and community association leaders.

Don Hood of Severna Park joined the commission Monday. He's a retired civil engineer who has served on four state tax study commissions since 1965, most recently the Linowes Commission, which earlier this year proposed an overhaul of the state's tax structure. The plan was defeated by theGeneral Assembly and referred to summer study. Hood called himself a"glutton for punishment."

At the start of the meeting, Neall toldthe group he wants the county to find a better way to deliver services.

"We're trying to maintain services, but we want to find a morecost-effective way to do it," Neall said. "This group is very important to the people of Anne Arundel County. You could make the difference between getting by and getting along well."

Acting Budget Officer Steven Welkos gave the committee a presentation on county spendingand property taxes. Property taxes now account for 38 percent of county revenue, up from 34 percent a year ago.

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