Are you prepared to pay more taxes when you buy a home?
County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann sure hopes so.
She wants a new 1 percent county real estate transfer tax to raise cash to buy agricultural development rights and pay for new school construction.
"The county transfer tax would raise about $4 million in new revenue," said the county treasurer, James M. Jewell.
"Ofthe $4 million, $2 million would be used to pay for new schools and school sites, and $2 million would be used to buy agricultural development rights."
The executive made the proposal public during a community forum at Fallston High School on Wednesday night. On Friday, she met with the seven-member county General Assembly delegation to lobby them for a bill that would allow Harford to establish the tax.
The unexpected announcement came in response to a question from Fallston resident Walter McCamish who asked how the county planned to keep services adequate in the face of development. Rehrmann responded that she planned to ask the county's General Assembly delegation to submit a bill that would allow the county authority to charge its own property transfer tax.
The state charges a .05 percent real estate transfer tax. The county receives revenue from the state transfer tax.About 75 percent of the amount the state takes in through its transfer tax collections in Harford is returned to the county coffers. Jewell, the county treasurer, said that amounted to about $100,000 this year.
The school system expects to spend about $80.1 million on school construction, including renovations and additions, by the 1998 school year. The county plans to build 12 elementary schools, one middle school and one high school as well as making additions or renovations at nine other schools, Seymour said.
As for agricultural development rights, Michael Paone, agricultural planner for the county, said the county hopes to purchase development rights to preserve 30,000 acres.
Rehrmann needs the delegation's support because the GeneralAssembly must give Harford permission to charge a transfer tax. If the legislature approves, the County Council would still have to approve the actual tax.
Del. Donald C. Fry, D-District 35A, said the delegation has not debated Rehrmann's request.
"Education and agricultural preservation are two very important problems that need to be addressed," Fry said. "Harford's population is growing, and the countyneeds to preserve land and open space. The state has been taking less responsibility in those two areas and the burden is being placed onthe counties, and the counties have to find a way of financing it.
"The issue is: Are there other revenue sources to pay for these twoprograms?"
Other concerns raised by county residents at Wednesdaynight's forum included fake identification cards used by minors to buy alcohol, a health concern at Fallston High and government spending.
More than 100 people attended the forum. About 20 spoke or askedquestions.
Yetta Zeno, of the Fallston Easy Mart, told the executive that establishments licensed to sell liquor are unfairly punishedwhen they sell liquor to a minor who uses a fake identification cards.
Lisa Penn, a senior at Fallston High School, asked Rehrmann to look into complaints of upper respiratory problems teachers and students at Fallston High are experiencing.
"I'm concerned about the dust and bacteria that circulates through this school's ventilation system," she said.
Other citizens, like Donald Hooper, told Rehrmann to "hold the line on spending."