Industrial tax revenue on the rise

Amount is expected to hit a high of 13% of total base by July

`This is good news'

Officials pursue rezoning to free up more business land

April 01, 2001|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Carroll's industrial tax revenue is on an upswing and should reach 13 percent of the county's tax base - apparently the highest proportion ever - before this fiscal year ends June 30, a development county officials are hailing.

"Every percentage point we can get is great for us," said Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge.

"This is good news, and it continues to go up," said Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier.

The county's industrial tax base is $50.6 million, a healthy figure that is likely to rise during the spring construction season and surpass last year's $53 million, said Jack Lyburn, Carroll's director of economic development, who is credited with helping raise the tax base.

"Jack always has a lot of prospects," Frazier said.

"Economic development is definitely on the upswing," said Lyburn.

"The trend has been up for the last two years. We started this year around 12 percent. We are nearly at $51 million, and we have until July 1 to push the numbers up," Lyburn said.

The expansion of the Random House warehouse in Westminster and the arrival of Sweetheart Cup in Hampstead and the Merritt Athletic Club in Eldersburg contributed to the increase, Lyburn said. In addition, Carroll Lutheran Village is expanding and will soon become the county's sixth-largest taxpayer, he said.

"Our resident industries are increasing in size and that adds to the tax base, too," said Commissioner Donald I. Dell.

An increase of 1 percentage point in the industrial tax base adds about $500,000 to the county's tax revenues, according to county budget officials. The industrial tax base - the taxes paid to the county by commercial businesses and industries - is important because it eases reliance on property taxes paid by homeowners and doesn't burden infrastructure such as water and sewerage as heavily as does residential growth.

"The fact is, there is less residential development, and that helps the spread [of percentages] from getting farther apart," said Dell. "If we were still building 1,500 homes a year, our industrial base would be at 11.5 percent."

Lyburn has been pushing the commissioners to rezone more land for industry and to prepare industrial sites for immediate occupancy, which was done for the Air Business Park on Route 97. In that case, buildings were constructed before tenants were found, rather than securing tenants first then constructing a building for them.

"We had several `spec' buildings in the Air Business Park, and today they are 100 percent leased," Lyburn said. Sites that are zoned for industrial use, with utilities available, would make Carroll a stronger competitor in the business market, he said.

"We have the interest in Carroll sites," Lyburn said. "What we don't have is sites with water, sewer and natural gas. We also need more industrially zoned marketable land."

The county recently lost a biotechnology prospect searching for a 100,000-square-foot space because Lyburn had no "spec" building ready to show, he said.

"If we don't have land zoned properly with infrastructure available to the site, we lose out," Lyburn said. "Our prospects don't want to look at cornfields. They want to see buildings, or they want permits to build within 30 days on a fully prepared site."

Carroll's industrial tax percentage is well below those of other Baltimore-area counties, all of which are at about 18 percent. Statewide, Carroll ranks 22nd among the 23 counties and Baltimore in business tax revenues.

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