Panel urges rise in piggyback tax $11 million backed for capital projects

December 16, 1992|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Staff Writer

Carroll commissioners may have to consider raising the piggyback tax to pay for essential capital projects such as roads and schools, Planning Commission members said yesterday.

The budget has been cut to the "bare bones," member Dennis P. Bowman said.

"We even took the marrow from the bones," member Louis J. Pecoraro added.

The Planning Commission recommended yesterday that the county spend $11 million in local money on capital projects in fiscal 1994 -- $2.5 more than is available.

In addition to the county money, the budget includes $15.6 million in state, federal and other revenue -- from such things as impact fees -- for capital projects.

The commissioners were reluctant to say they would consider any tax increases.

"We'll look at a lot of things before we talk about raising taxes," Commissioner Donald I. Dell said.

Commissioner Julia W. Gouge said the county must restructure and possibly shift some services to the private sector or volunteers.

A small increase in the piggyback tax, a 50 percent county tax on income charged in addition to the state tax, would be the only tax increase Mrs. Gouge said she would consider.

Elmer C. Lippy said the commissioners would have to consider an increase in the piggyback tax.

"It's a realistic option," he said.

County property taxes are $2.35 per $100 of assessed valuation and have not increased since fiscal 1990.

"We need to face reality," said Mr. Pecoraro, who brought up the idea of raising the piggyback tax.

The commission's report stated: "The revenue picture for the next five years is not encouraging to say the least, and it has very serious and far-reaching implications on the county's ability to deliver and maintain adequate public facilities."

Member Zeno M. Fisher Jr. said the Planning Commission pushed many capital projects requested by county agencies for the coming fiscal year into future years.

That was necessary because only $8.5 million in local money -- $7.5 million in bonds and $1 million in cash -- is available for fiscal 1994, but it will mean a certain tax increase in future years, he said.

For example, a new high school would cost $15 million to $18 million and "would devastate this budget," Mr. Fisher said.

In forming its recommendations, the commission focused on projects relating to residents' health and safety when recommending funding, Mr. Fisher said.

"We tried to focus on things that were more necessities," he said. "I think we pared down as far as we could go."

The recommendations include $5 million for a new middle school in New Windsor, $1 million to make county buildings and schools accessible to the disabled, $950,000 to relocate Obrecht Road in South Carroll and $260,000 for improvements to Route 32 associated with renovations at Mechanicsville Elementary School.

The commission said it could not afford to pay for an upgrade of the county's emergency radio system, expansion of the Eldersburg branch library, improvements to the Board of Education computer system, 12 road projects and many other items across the board.

Mrs. Gouge said she would not consider selling more general obligation bonds to finance projects because it could jeopardize the county's bond rating. A debt affordability study done about two years ago said

Carroll could afford to sell $7.5 million in bonds in fiscal 1994, she said.

Mrs. Gouge said she would consider transferring money from the operating budget to the capital budget to finance projects.

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