Rehrmann Seeking Ok To Establish New Taxes

February 02, 1992|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff writer

The next time you stay in a county hotel, put your boat in a slip atthe Havre de Grace marina or use your phone, you may have to pay a little more in local taxes.

County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann wants permission from the state for the county to start charging a rangeof new user and product taxes.

Rehrmann wants to take advantage of state law that permits counties, with the permission of the General Assembly, to charge any of 12 local taxes: room taxes at hotels and motels, and taxes on cable television, telephone service, natural gas, fuel oil, coal, steam, electric, liquid petroleum, beverage containers, boat slips and parking lots.

Rehrmann has asked the county's legislative delegation to submit a bill giving Harford the additional taxing authority on these products and services. The executive has not decided which taxes she would recommend, nor the amounts. No revenue estimates will be prepared until she knows how much state aid Harford will lose, Rehrmann said.

"We don't want to tax people more," said Rehrmann. "But in Annapolis, they're talking about serious cuts."

Rehrmann said she expects Harford to lose between $2 million to $5 million in state aid in 1992.

"They're also talking about a $10 million cut in aid to Harford in the next fiscal year," said Rehrmann. "We can't sustain a cut of $10 million without taking one of two options. The first option would be deeply cutting services. The second option is increasing revenue."

Rehrmann's appeal is part of a general request by the Maryland Association of Counties, which wants to see taxing authority distributed more equally among counties.

For example, Anne Arundel County charges 11 of the 12 permitted local taxes and raised $15 million last year. The only tax Anne Arundel does not charge is the beverage container tax.

Baltimore County, which charges all local taxes except the boat slip tax, raised $51 million last year.

"The only tax we have permission from the General Assembly to charge is the cable television tax," said Larry Klimovitz, director of administration.

James M. Jewell, the county treasurer, said Harford earned $200,000 last year on its 3 percent cable television tax.

Del. Donald C. Fry, D-District 35A, said Harford's state legislators are giving Rehrmann's proposal serious consideration.

"If we can't give the counties theassistance we used to give, this is another revenue source for them," said Fry. "The state doesn't feel we can continue to be everything to everybody anymore, and if we can't help financially, it seems to be appropriate to provide the counties the power to do things we're not going to do for them anymore."

Fry said that even if the GeneralAssembly gives Harford the authority to charge the taxes, it would still be up to the County Council whether to charge any of the taxes and at what rates.

Jewell, the county treasurer, said Aberdeen would be the biggest beneficiary of a countywide hotel/motel tax because most of the county's hotels and motels are located there.

AberdeenMayor George Englesson and town administrators made a pitch to the delegation supporting a 3 percent countywide hotel tax, Fry said.

"The lion's share of revenue would go to Aberdeen, and then Havre de Grace, because that's where the hotels are," explained Jewell.

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