Transfer tax plan back on wish list

Commissioners asking Assembly for revenue power on housing sales

Similar measure failed last year

Road-cost assessment for developers also on list

Carroll County

October 24, 2003|By Childs Walker | Childs Walker,SUN STAFF

The Carroll commissioners want the power to charge transfer taxes to homebuyers. Despite opposition from several of the county's state legislators, they're asking for the extended taxing authority as part of their wish list for next year's General Assembly session.

The tax bill tops a list of legislative requests that also includes a revived proposal to allow the county greater power to charge developers for roads that benefit their projects.

The commissioners say they need more money to pay for schools and emergency services, but would rather implement taxes targeted at development than raise property taxes for all residents.

They can't charge a transfer tax without the legislature's permission, however, and a similar request failed last year, largely because influential members of the county's delegation did not support it.

"This proposal furthers the county's commitment to have growth pay for growth," said County Attorney Kimberly Millender, who presented a draft of the transfer tax bill to the commissioners yesterday.

But some members of Carroll's all-Republican state delegation, such as Sen. Larry E. Haines, have said they are philosophically opposed to any tax increase.

The disagreement over transfer taxes between the moderate Republican commissioners and more conservative legislators has intensified this year as the county struggles to meet an increasing demand for services.

The commissioners have already taken several steps to raise revenues and slow growth.

Earlier this year, they passed an increase in the piggyback tax rate on income that cost a typical Carroll taxpayer $90 and an increase in the recordation tax that raised the cost of the average home-sale settlement by about $660.

In June, they implemented a yearlong growth freeze, saying they wanted to give planners time to revamp laws designed to keep development from racing ahead of infrastructure.

The commissioners say the ability to charge transfer taxes would be another tool they could use to keep growth from overwhelming services. Their proposed language for the bill would allow them to spend transfer tax revenues only on schools, police and emergency services.

The transfer tax bill is not the only proposal back for a second try.

The roads-cost bill also failed in the legislature last year, with several members of the committee that reviewed it saying they could not understand its purpose.

The proposed bill says that if the county builds a new road, it can later recoup the cost from any developer who is able to build houses because the road exists.

The commissioners say that too often, the county has either never built or never completed planned roads because of cost concerns. They say the proposed law would make it easier for them to proceed with road projects that are in the master plan but have been dormant for years.

The county has traditionally waited for developers to pay for such roads after building houses along the planned routes. But under the new proposal, the commissioners would build the roads before the houses and then demand compensation from developers when the houses are constructed.

The proposal needs General Assembly approval because many of the commissioners' powers must be defined by state law.

The commissioners will meet with members of the county's delegation to discuss the list of requests, but a meeting has not been scheduled.

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