Union Bridge mayor proposes raising tax

April 26, 1994|By Traci A. Johnson | Traci A. Johnson,Sun Staff Writer

Union Bridge Mayor Perry L. Jones Jr. last night introduced to the Town Council a $398,500 budget for fiscal 1995 that would increase the town's property tax rate by a penny.

The proposed 73-cent tax rate would make up the money Union Bridge must pay Lehigh Portland Cement Co. as the result of two court decisions last year, the mayor said.

For years, the Union Bridge company paid property taxes to the town on $4 million worth of land and equipment, chiefly cement storage silos, that turned out to be tax exempt. The Maryland Court of Special Appeals issued a ruling to that effect last April, and the Court of Appeals let that decision stand by refusing to review it in July.

Mayor Jones' proposed budget includes a property tax rate increase of one cent per $100 assessed valuation during fiscal year 1995 to raise money toward a tax rebate totaling $19,000 the town owes Lehigh.

The tax rate increase would be the second that the Town Council has approved for Union Bridge in two years.

"We've got to pay $1,500 for the next who knows how many years until we pay back those funds," Mayor Jones said last night at the Town Council meeting.

Lehigh's rebate is due under a state law that exempts from taxes property that is integral to the manufacturing process.

"We owe about $19,000, and it was good of them to break it up," Mr. Jones said of the company. "We could have had to pay it all at once." The mayor said he anticipates the fiscal 1995 town budget to be $398,500, almost $100,000 less than last year.

Last year, the town's tax rate increased to 72 cents from 68 cents to enable town officials to absorb the costs of municipal office construction and renovations to town utilities.

But town officials may have to "reconsider some of the other numbers in the budget," depending on whether county government officially increases the tipping fee at the county landfill, the mayor said.

The council is expected to approve the budget during next month's council meeting.

The council also discussed drafting a lease for Union Bridge's Heritage committee to use the Pump House building adjoining the Town Hall.

Elaine Holmes, a committee member, repeated committee President John Gartrell's request for the group to be given at least a 10-year lease on the building it wants to use as a museum and office.

"Because of the time and money that would be put into the building, it wouldn't be worth the Heritage committee's effort to have less than a 10-year lease," Mrs. Holmes said.

Councilman Bret Grossnickle said the town did not have the money to put heating and insulation in the building, which is nearly 100 years old.

But the council is considering Mrs. Holmes' suggestion that the Heritage committee should have baseboard heating installed in the structure if the town agrees to pay the electric costs for the heat.

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