$10 rise in marriage fee proposed

October 03, 1993|By Phyllis Brill | Phyllis Brill,Staff Writer

The cost of getting married in Harford County would rise $10 under a proposal before the County Council.

County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann wants to raise the fee for a marriage license from $25 to $35 to increase funding to domestic violence programs in the county.

The proceeds from the 40 percent increase -- which would be the first fee increase in 11 years -- would support organizations that combat spousal abuse, particularly the Bel Air-based Sexual Assault/Spouse Abuse Resource Center, said Robert Hockaday, director of government and community relations for the county.

"This program has done an excellent job in funding nonprofit groups that provide for the needy," he said during a recent presentation before County Council. State law allows proceeds from any county charges above the $10 base fee mandated by the state to be disbursed to applicable programs aimed at curbing domestic violence.

In Harford County, the additional $15 charged per license provided more than $26,000 to SARC in fiscal 1993, Mr. Hockaday said last week. That was almost 10 percent of its total budget of about $300,000.

If the license fee is raised to $35, it will add another $17,000 a year to the assault center's budget, he said. About 1,700 marriage licenses were sold in the county last year.

"Our client load increased 35 percent in fiscal 1993," said Rachelle Yesenko, executive director of SARC, "and that extra money could certainly help pay for that increase."

She said the money also might go toward a planned shelter for abused women, which SARC hopes to open in Bel Air next spring. Currently, the center places women seeking shelter from abusive situations in local hotel and motel rooms until a more permanent home can be found.

"It would be a tremendous asset to us if they allowed the fees to be raised," she said. "I don't think $35 for a marriage license is outrageous. I can't believe it's even an issue," she said, referring to some council members' objection to the boost when it was first brought up in County Council.

"Why does the administration need to tax the little people at a crossroads in their lives?" Councilman Jeffrey D. Wilson asked when the administration outlined the proposed increase.

The resolution for an increase grew out of enabling legislation passed by the General Assembly earlier this year, allowing Harford County to raise its fee as high as $45. The law went into effect July 1.

Harford County last raised its marriage license fee in 1982 and has the lowest fee in the Baltimore metropolitan area. In Anne Arundel County, a license costs $55. In Baltimore City and Howard, Carroll and Baltimore counties, it costs $35.

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