Council fails to get authority to impose fees

Legislators decide group cannot levy new charges

Harford County

September 12, 2004|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,SUN STAFF

The Harford County Council's hope of obtaining authority to impose new fees on homes to help pay for school construction and renovation has been rebuffed by the county's legislative delegation to the General Assembly.

Del. Barry Glassman, chairman of the delegation, said six members of the House of Delegates voted against giving the council the authority to impose new fees during a meeting Wednesday night.

He said Del. Mary-Dulany James did not attend the session, and Del. Susan K. McComas abstained.

Glassman said the three senators representing the county also told him that they were opposed to granting the council additional funding authority.

"We chose not to take any further action until the council imposes the impact fee on new homes that we gave them the authority to do earlier this year," Glassman said. "We want to see that imposed first and a financial analysis of the impact fee and the revenue it would generate before taking any additional steps."

Last year, the council asked the delegation for a number of revenue-raising options to pay for schools. In addition to the impact fee, the council requested the authority to raise the transfer tax from 1 percent to 1.5 percent, to repeal the $30,000 exemption under the transfer tax for an owner-occupied residence and to impose a building excise tax.

When it was granted only the authority to impose the impact fee, the council went back to the delegation this year to ask for the other options.

Council President Robert S. Wagner said he was not surprised by the delegation's rejection of the council's request.

"I wasn't disappointed because I knew we weren't going to get it," he said.

"Unless we come up with a winning lottery ticket, I don't know how we are going to pay for much-needed schools.

"I guess next year we go down to Annapolis and show them our empty pockets and say, `You tell us how we are going to do it' [pay for school construction and renovation]."

Wagner said the council made the funding-authority request last year because he knew there was little chance of having it approved in the legislative session starting in January.

"The closer you get the to election cycle," he said, "the less chance you have of getting something unpopular out of Annapolis.

"What they gave," he said, "is insufficient, and we will have to wait two years before asking again."

The council's request was in response to the demands of county residents.

Parents turned out in force at council meetings last year demanding that something be done about schools that had 20 percent - and in some cases, more than 25 percent - more students than they were designed to handle.

They said crowding jeopardized the safety of their children and was not conducive to learning.

They also complained about leaking roofs, mold in classrooms, the increased use of portable classrooms and classrooms that were too hot in summer and too cold during winter months.

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