Municipal League Places Revenue High On Its Menu

December 11, 1991|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff writer

The invitation makes it sound like an old-fashioned holiday party, with cocktails, dinner, dessert and conversation.

But "party" is probably the wrong word to use these days whenever a group of elected officials get together.

Friday evening's annual holiday get-together -- read "legislativelobbying" -- at the Union Bridge Volunteer Fire Company is the one time the county commissioners and members of Carroll's legislative delegation are wined and dined by the members of the county's chapter ofthe Maryland Municipal League.

In addition to the drinks and food, league members will be serving up requests for more money.

Or atleast requests for the state to take away less money as the General Assembly begins to take its stab at a budget deficit that already hashit about $900 million and is expected to reach more than $1 billionby this time next year.

The league has three main items on its legislative agenda for the 1992 General Assembly session, and all include money in one form or another: Members are looking for more authorization to raise revenue on the local level, ways to ban mandated programs if the funding is not provided by the state and a way to make prosecuting municipal infractions easier and more cost-effective.

"Cities and towns have for the last five or six years struggled to findnew revenue sources to replace lost general revenue sharing money and to meet the increased demand for municipal services," a league position paper said. "The present economic situation has exacerbated thisdilemma . . . Unfortunately, the near-term economic outlook is not good."

The league -- to which government officials in all eight Carroll municipalities belong -- will try and persuade the county's delegation to push for its agenda.

To raise more money, the towns wantto be allowed greater taxing authority in the form of a hotel-motel tax, impact fees and other miscellaneous taxes, such as parking, boatslip, energy and video rental levies.

The league also wants the state to refrain from demanding that localities provide services Annapolis is unwilling to pay for. The league says that about 1,100 such mandates exist in Maryland, including recycling programs, reforestation requirements and sediment control guidelines.

"We are mad, and we're not going to take it anymore," said Sykesville Mayor Lloyd R. Helt Jr. "And this year, we mean it."

In October, the league's executive director predicted a bleak future for the state's 157 municipalities.

"I'd say it's pretty much doom, gloom and weakness," Jon C. Burrell said during the league's legislative convention in late October. "Things look really bad."

The total budgets of Carroll's eightmunicipalities is about $18 million. More than 40 percent of that israised through property taxes, so far the only form of taxation available to the state's municipalities. The rest comes from the state and county. Yesterday, the county announced that it would have to cut an additional $3.7 million from its budget.

While last year's holiday gathering in Taneytown centered around redefining zoning laws and the beginnings of the municipal infraction battle, this year's is expected to center around fiscal survival.

The dinner, which begins with a cocktail hour at 6, is restricted to members of the chapter andlegislators.

The MML is the main lobbyist for the state's municipalities. Since 1980, the league has had a legislative success rate ofabout 50 percent. About 46 of its proposals since then have been enacted as law.

AT A GLANCE

*Event: Carroll County Chapter of Maryland Municipal League winter meeting

* Time/date: 6 p.m. Friday

* Location: Union Bridge Fire Hall, 8 W. Locust St.

* Information: 775-2711

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