Tax cut urged to keep marinas afloat

March 07, 1994|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Sun Staff Writer

The County Council has a proposal sure to please marina owners who have been squeezed by the recession and a luxury tax that has reduced boat sales: cut the hated slip tax in half.

The 20-year-old tax, levied on boats stored in marinas, would be slashed from 10 percent of the slip charge to 5 percent.

A public hearing for the legislation, which is sponsored by the entire council, will be held tonight.

Anne Arundel County collected a little more than $1 million from the slip tax in fiscal 1993.

Boat owners would see an immediate drop in their slip charges, said Mitch Nathanson, president of Coastal Properties, which owns and operates several marinas in the state.

A boat owner who pays $2,000 a year for a slip would save $100, Mr. Nathanson said.

The tax-reduction idea developed from discussions between county officials and people in the marine industry. The group reported to County Executive Robert Neall late last year.

"We were finding we were faced with 25 percent-plus vacancy rates," Mr. Nathanson said. "We're the only county within Maryland that has this kind of a tax, and it's particularly difficult when you have facilities that border this county."

In addition to boat owners using marinas in nearby counties, the committee found that many of them moved from commercial marinas to operations owned by community associations. Those marinas, Mr. Nathanson said, are not subject to the county's slip tax.

"If you had a choice, you'd go someplace else. You wouldn't come into the county. So we are really at a disadvantage," Mr. Nathanson said. "Ideally, we would have loved to have phased this out entirely."

Mr. Neall said he supports the concept of assisting the marina industry but would have preferred that the council wait until the General Assembly session ends to ensure there are no reductions in state aid to the county.

"I would be able to do it with a great deal more comfort if I knew I weren't going to lose $2 million or $3 million dollars over there," he said, gesturing toward the State House.

Mr. Nathanson noted that the measure would not initially affect Annapolis, which also charges the 10 percent slip tax, but that the next logical step would be to work toward reducing the city levy.

"There's such a popular misconception that boaters are rich, arrogant people who can afford this sort of thing," Mr. Nathanson said. "But the average boat in this state is about 17 feet and the average boat in a marina is about 30 feet. So these are not wealthy people."

The council will meet at 7:30 p.m. in the council chambers at the Arundel Center in Annapolis.

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