County Council Defeats Three Revenue-raising Bills

Measures Would Have Boosted Mobile Home Excise Tax, Permit Fees

April 19, 1992|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff writer

The County Council has rejected three bills that called for increasing various permit and licensing fees and excise taxes which County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann planned to use to raise more than $750,000in new revenue next year.

The votes mean the executive will have to submit amendments to cut her proposed $188.6 million operating budget for fiscal 1993.

A bill that would have raised about $200,000 by doubling the monthly excise tax charged to mobile home owners from $10 to $20 was defeated by the council, 7-0.

The other two bills were defeated, 4-3. One would have raised fees for various permits and licenses, and another would have raised the cost of sediment control permits.

"This holds the budget hostage. They're assuming we'll pass this. But this is the Courthouse in Bel Air, not the State House in Annapolis," saidCouncilman Barry T. Glassman, R-District D.

The votes followed a public hearing Tuesday at which owners and residents of mobile home parks vehemently protested the proposed increase in the mobile home excise tax.

"This tax is ridiculous. If you pass this you'll have more homeless people in this county than you can shake a stick at," said Donald Boats, a resident of Spring Valley Mobile Home Park in Aberdeen. "I work here in Harford County, and I clear maybe $19,000 a year, and I don't know how you people think we're supposed to live."

Karen Whitehurst, a county employee, told the council, "I'm confused that the County Council voted not to raise my salary, but is voting toraise my tax. I'm paying $765 to maintain my mobile home between my mortgage and my ground rent."

Council members, although united in their opposition to raising the mobile home excise tax, disagreed over the two fee bills.

Council President Jeffrey D. Wilson, a Republican, said he felt the two fee bills "have some good points." But Wilson voted to reject the bills, saying he had specifically advised Larry Klimovitz, director of administration, not to count on revenue theproposed fees would generate in the budget proposal.

CouncilwomanTheresa M. Pierno, D-District C, Councilwoman Susan B. Heselton, R-District A, and Councilman Philip J. Barker, D-District F, voted not to reject the two fee bills.

Under the proposed license and permit fee bill, the penalty for being issued a stop-work order would have been raised from the current $25 to $100 for the first offense, $200 for the second and $300 for the third. That bill also would have raised permit fees for new septic systems from $40 to $400.

The bill that would have raised sediment control and storm water management permit fees, which vary according to the size of the project, would have brought in an estimated $177,000.

Klimovitz said Wednesday that itis common practice to send companion revenue bills to the legislature with a proposed budget.

"It's disconcerting. You heard them say there are a lot of good points, but they voted against it," said Klimovitz. "This came up during the budget session last year, when we realized the fees hadn't been touched in years."

Now that the bills have been defeated, Klimovitz said he must begin making cuts in the budget.

Klimovitz said some of the money brought in by the three bills would have been used to hire another person in the Department of Planning and Zoning to speed the plan review process.

"That's one thing that will be cut right off the bat," said Klimovitz.

James M.Jewell, the county treasurer, said the defeat of the bills means theDivision of Inspections, Licenses and Permits will lose $527,000 from its proposed budget.

Other departments counting on money from the bills include the Department of Planning and Zoning, $49,000; the Department of Public Works, $52,000; and the county Health Department,$71,100, Jewell said.

The council has scheduled work sessions on the proposed budget throughout April and will consider amendments to the budget in May. By law, the council must enact the budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 1992, by May 31.

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