Towns Consider New Taxes In Their Search For Revenue

October 30, 1991|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff writer

BALTIMORE — Maryland's municipal leaders are expected to push for another special session of the General Assembly in hopes of gaining the right to levy something more than property taxes.

The state's -- and Carroll's -- municipalities are looking for ways to keep their budgets intactin the face of the latest round of budget-cutting in Annapolis.

And one of those ways, says the director of the Maryland Municipal League, is to give localities another source of revenue.

"Thingslook really bad," said Jon C. Burrell, recalling what he told the 225 municipal officials who gathered at an Inner Harbor hotel last weekfor the league's annual legislative conference.

"We need to prepare for a new round of cuts, and we need to come up with some new taxing options."

Municipalities are finding that when the state government cuts its budget, it can ask the counties to pick up the slack.

When the counties are forced to cut their budgets -- as Carroll will this week to the tune of almost $5.6 million -- they turn to the towns.

The towns, Burrell said, can only turn to taxpayers.

"I'd say it's pretty much doom, gloom and bleakness," he said.

The pushfor alternatives to the property tax, the only levy allowed to Maryland's 157 municipal governments, isn't new. But Burrell said this year's fiscal fireworks have made the issue one of survival.

The total budget of Carroll's eight municipalities is about $18 million. Morethan 40 percent of that is raised through property taxes. The rest comes from the state and county. So far, the combination of state and county budget cuts is expected to cost Carroll's towns almost $1 million.

Some of the alternatives, Burrell said, would be a hotel/motel tax, an increased sales tax or even an income tax.

In other states, such as New York and California, cities can impose those types oftaxes. New York City's sales tax, at 8 1/4 percent, is higher than the state's 7 percent levy.

"I don't want to say just what we wouldcome up with, but I do want to get it on the table," Burrell said.

And he wants it on the table before the General Assembly -- alreadycalled back twice to deal with congressional redistricting and budget-cutting -- convenes for 1992.

In addition to pushing for a special session, the MML also will lobby legislators to stop telling regional governments to institute state programs if Annapolis comes up short with the cash.

In a move long advocated by Hampstead Manager John A. Riley and Sykesville Mayor Lloyd R. Helt Jr., the MML will telllawmakers that if they want the recycling program to take off or if they want their reforestation act enforced, they're going to have to come up with some money.

"If you wish to mandate new programs on local governments, then give us the money," Burrell said.

In one ofthe weakest turnouts in years, last week's conference drew representatives from 67 of the league's 153 member towns. Representatives fromHampstead, Sykesville and Taneytown attended the conference.

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