The county's neediest homeowners could save $1.8 million next year under a property tax credit program unveiled by County Executive Robert R. Neall yesterday.
Caught between the recession and continuing cries for tax relief, Neall said the tax credits -- proposed as part of his new fiscal 1993 budget -- will help those who most need it without decimating county coffers. He plans to make up for the loss in revenue by raising fees and fines for everything from pet shop licenses to applications for special zoning exceptions to parade permits.
"This is only a beginning," he said at a press conference. "This can be easily added to and expanded. We're in the middle of a recession, so the question is how you can make a good beginning (at relieving the tax burden) with very, very limited resources."
County budget officials estimate 13,500 homeowners would be eligible to save $1.8million under the plan, designed as a local supplement to a state tax relief program for low-income homeowners. About 5,200 Anne Arundel homeowners now receive credits of $3 million under that program.
Under Neall's proposal, low-income homeowners would be able to save upto $200 on top of what they already save under the state tax relief program. A homeowner who makes $12,000 and saves $200 in state credits now would save $120 more.
The state program helps mostly people who make less than $20,000. Neall's plan would continue to help thosepeople, but would extend the aid to homeowners in the $20,000 to $30,000 range, said County Budget Officer Steve Welkos.
Though the state reimburses the counties for revenues lost because of its tax credits, Anne Arundel will have to finance its own program. The county proposes raising $601,000 in new fees and $1.2 million in existing fee increases.
Those who would pay more under the new fees include:
* Senior citizens, who would pay an annual $10 fee to use county senior centers, and a $1 per-trip fee for transportation via a county bus or van. Total estimated revenue: $119,000.
* Contractors and citizens who apply for trade permits through the Department of Inspections and Permits. A new $10 permit application fee is expected to raise$350,000.
* Applicants for nonconforming uses ($250 per application), waivers from zoning requirements ($100 per request) and landscape-screening reviews (5 percent of bond, up to $1,000).
Existing charges that would rise include Health Department food inspection fees (from $150 to $200), fees for various zoning applications, and zoningappeal requests.
Charges for about 75 licenses, applications and permits issued by the Department of Inspections and Permits also would rise. Many of these have not been raised since the 1960s or 1970s, said Budget Officer Steve Welkos. For example, auctioneers who now pay $15 for an annual license would pay $250. Pet shops that now pay $25 would pay $250. Bail bondsmen who pay $250 would pay $1,000.
Application, examination and licensing fees for tradesmen all would increase.
Neall will present the property tax credit program and fee changes to the County Council on Friday. He is the first leader of anyMaryland jurisdiction to propose a supplement to the state tax credit program.
Robert Schaeffer, leader of the Anne Arundel Taxpayers Association, said he favors any tax relief measure. But he dismissed Neall's proposal as a "feel-good thing," and a "political ploy."
Schaeffer, who is collecting signatures to put a measure on the ballotlimiting the amount of taxes Anne Arundel can collect each year, wants Neall to drop the property tax rate, which now stands at $2.46 per$100 of assessed value.