Neall Joins Lobbying For Property-tax Relief Measure

Bill Would Allow Increase In Piggyback Tax Share

March 12, 1992|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Staff writer

Since he was elected county executive in November 1990, Robert R. Neall has been pressured by tax groups, homeowner and civic groups to cut property taxes.

Yesterday, he asked the General Assembly for help to do that.

Neall told the House Ways and Means Committee that the state should let counties increase "piggyback" income taxes because the saggingeconomy has slashed or frozen revenue sources, and taxpayers are tired of shouldering such a heavy property tax burden.

Neall was joined by officials from Prince George's, Howard and Baltimore counties in asking the committee, chaired by Del. Tyras Athey, to vote for the House Bill 1523. The measure would authorize Maryland's 23 counties and Baltimore to collect 60 percent of the state income tax, instead of the current 50-percent limit.

Increasing the piggyback tax to 60percent would translate into $26 million in revenue for Anne ArundelCounty, budget officials said. Neall said the money is needed to provide services.

"If you're operating a local government in this state, I think you need the tools to do the job," Neall told the committee.

A total of 39 percent of this year's $598 million operating budget, roughly $232 million, comes from property taxes.

Most revenue sources are either at last year's level or declining.

Marvin Bond, a spokesman for the state Comptroller's Office, said that state sales taxes collected from Anne Arundel County businesses are generallydown 2.8 percent.

State income piggyback taxes collected for the county are running about the same as last year, with $112.9 million collected as of Feb. 28, 1991, and $113.9 million collected as of Feb.28, 1992, Bond said.

Budget Director Steven Welkos said the budget will project a 1-percent growth rate in income tax, or roughly $1.3million.

Neall said that means the county will be forced to rely on the property tax for 40 percent of its general fund budget revenues this year.

He acknowledged that's too much. A tax study committee he appointed recommended last month that property taxes pay for no more than 30 percent of the budget.

But he said that the bleak economy and the need for services has left him little choice.

"The only revenue that's performing in my portfolio is the property tax," Neall said.

Neall, who is in closed-door budget meetings this week with department heads, said he will be unable to decide on service cuts or tax increases until early next month, when the legislature decides on funding amounts for the state's 23 counties.

Last year, the state gave the county $140 million, which made up 23 percent of the county's $598 million operating budget, Welkos said.

Gov. William Donald Schaefer's proposed budget, which is being reviewed by the legislature, would mean a $2 million increase in that amount, he said.

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