Piggyback tax break bid tabled Commissioners delay Brown's effort to cut rate to 50 percent

Proposal said 'premature'

Dell urges waiting until citizens panel studies school funding

February 11, 1997|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

Carroll residents might not get a tax break this year after all.

The County Commissioners tabled a move by Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown yesterday that would scale back the county's income tax rate to 50 percent of a filer's state income tax.

Brown and Commissioner Donald I. Dell raised the so-called piggyback rate to 58 percent in May 1995, intending to use millions of dollars in added revenue to build eight new schools by 2001.

Even with added revenues of more than $7.5 million a year, the county would still need help from the state to build the schools, Brown said, but that aid appears to be in jeopardy.

Getting needed state funding "is a problem this year," Brown said yesterday. "Next year we've got an impossibility. The track we're on is not going to allow us to do what we've said it would do."

Brown said he would have preferred in 1995 to issue more municipal bonds rather than raise taxes to pay for schools, but "blinked" and voted with Dell for a "pay as you go" school funding policy.

However, "part of smart decision-making is that when you realize you are on the wrong road, you turn around and get on the right one," Brown said.

Dell said Brown is "jumping the gun" and that the commissioners ought to wait until a citizens commission looks at the school funding issue before ending the piggyback revenue source.

The commissioners knew when they voted the tax increase 19 months ago that they would need revenue from the state and would have to sell municipal bonds to build new schools, Dell said.

Dell called Brown's tax cut proposal "premature," saying the state aid prognosis has changed little since the piggyback increase was approved.

Dell said the commissioners could not rescind the increase without first holding a public hearing.

Commissioner Richard T. Yates, who voted against the tax increase in 1995 and yesterday seconded Brown's motion to rescind it, wanted to know if the tax cut would take place July 1, the beginning of the new fiscal year.

Brown said he wanted it to occur as soon as legally possible.

Capital budget analyst Ted Zaleski told the commissioners he doubted they could rescind the tax prior to Dec. 31 since the state collects income taxes on an calendar year rather than a fiscal year basis.

After consulting with assistant county attorney Isaac Menasche, the commissioners said they needed more time to determine whether they need to hold a public hearing prior to rescinding the tax and whether they are prohibited from returning to the 50 percent piggyback rate prior to Dec. 31.

The commissioners did not set a date for reconsidering Brown's tax cut proposal.

Meanwhile, the commissioners voted unanimously yesterday to go along with Brown's other suggestion and appointed an 11-member citizens commission to review the school funding issue.

The commission will be comprised of three members of the school board, two members of the planning commission, two representatives of the towns most affected by development, and one representative apiece from the economic development commission, the county chamber of commerce, the local chapter of the Homebuilders' Association of Maryland, and the Carroll County Taxpayers' Association.

Each group will choose its own representative to the commission.

Pub Date: 2/11/97

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