Tax increases on horizon in Carroll

March 14, 1995|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Sun Staff Writer

Carroll County residents likely will see an increase in the piggyback income tax, beginning this summer, so the county can afford to build eight new schools in the next six years, the county commissioners said yesterday.

The tax increase is one way county officials have proposed raising money to handle the school population, which is expected to grow by about 4,100 students to 28,000 students by the year 2000.

The county also has proposed initiating a county hotel/motel tax and real estate transfer tax, as well as increasing various county fees.

Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown said residents told him during last fall's election campaign that they want schools, roads and other facilities to keep pace with growth.

"You can only look at this so many ways before you realize there are no other viable options" to tax increases, Mr. Brown said.

The commissioners have proposed raising the piggyback tax to 60 percent of the state's income tax rate -- the maximum the state allows. Carroll's rate now is 50 percent.

County Budget Director Steven D. Powell detailed the proposal at a meeting at Bear Branch Nature Center yesterday morning. About 60 people, including representatives from the board of education, Sheriff's Department, Carroll Community College and Human Services Programs Inc., attended.

Mr. Brown said officials "bent over backwards" not to raise county property tax rates because it would hit people on fixed incomes the hardest.

The county's rate of $2.35 per $100 of assessed valuation has not changed since 1990.

Commissioner Donald I. Dell said he supports an increase in the piggyback tax "not because we like to [raise taxes], but because we feel it is an absolute necessity."

Commissioner Richard T. Yates said he does not support a tax increase.

"We raised the impact fee. I'm not agreeable to raising more taxes," he said.

Last month, the commissioners voted unanimously to increase the impact fee, which is a one-time fee charged on new homes. The increase to $4,487 per single-family home from $2,700 is expected to raise an additional $1.4 million per year. The fee had raised about $3 million annually.

The commissioners have not voted on the proposed piggyback tax increase. They are scheduled to adopt a budget for fiscal 1996, which begins July 1, on May 30.

The piggyback tax increase would raise $4 million in fiscal 1996, because the increase would be in effect half a year, and $9.3 million in fiscal 1997. Raising other fees would generate $2 million.

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