Ecker Wants To Cut Taxes, Add Trash-collection Fee

February 26, 1992|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff writer

County Executive Charles I. Ecker said yesterday that he wants to reduce property taxes by 8 cents but charge $70 per household for trashcollection.

Ecker sent the County Council a bill last week that would allow the county to do half of what he wants. The bill, which will be introduced Monday and discussed at a public hearing March 17, would make trash collection a public utility and allow the county to collect fees for it.

The amounts collected would be determined annually in a separate resolution as part of the county budget. Ecker projects the fee for fiscal 1993, which begins July 1, to be about $70 per household.

"We need to have a system for charging for recyclables and non-recyclables," Ecker said. He wants trash fees to go into an enterprise fund separate from the county's general operating fund. He estimates the $70 fee would raise about $4 million -- an amount equal to about 8 cents on the property tax rate.

"I hope to reduce the property tax by the amount of the fee," Ecker said. "I don't want this to be a back-door tax increase."

Trash fees could go higher next year if the administration gets authorization from the General Assembly to charge for trash disposal as well as trash collection. Trash disposal is far more expensive than trash collection.

The trash bill is part of an agenda so large the council is planning an extra night of hearings toaccommodate the number of people expected to testify.

"It must bethe pre-budget rush," Council Chairman Paul R. Farragut, D-4th, joked Monday night as he reviewed the agenda with the council. Most of the council's time in April and May is taken up with budget matters.

Executive appointments, bond requests, inter-fund transfers, and a land swap between the parks department and the Board of Education willbe dealt with March 16. Also on the agenda that night are bills dealing with recycling, hate crimes and a proposal to ban smoking in shopping malls.

Bills dealing with public housing, forest conservationand the trash-collection fee will be discussed March 17.

The council will limit testimony each night to three minutes for individuals and five minutes for group representatives. The time limit is an attempt to end the hearings by 11 p.m. When the council operates without a time limit, hearings often go past midnight.

An anti-smoking bill, sponsored by C. Vernon Gray, D-3rd, would ban smoking in the common spaces of indoor shopping malls. Gray is the author of the county'scurrent law, which restricts smoking in public by limiting it to special areas.

Gray is also sponsoring a March resolution calling on the county to offer rewards for information leading to the arrest of people who commit hate crimes. The resolution says the recent distribution of hate literature to Columbia homes and the spraying of a black child with a noxious substance by a white student on a school bus are "very ominous signs that incidence of hate-related activities is escalating in the county."

Farragut, meanwhile, is sponsoring a recycling bill that would require the county to purchase more products made from recycled materials. He says government should become a majorpurchaser of recycled products to stimulate the recyclable market and lead private companies by example.

"The purchase of recycled products is crucial to ensure that a market demand exists for recyclablematerials," he said.

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