Council to weigh energy conservation tax credit

Bill would reward installation of solar, geothermal

September 01, 2006|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,sun reporter

A bill that would give Howard County residents a property tax credit for installation of solar or geothermal energy-saving equipment is to be introduced at Tuesday night's County Council meeting.

Councilman Guy Guzzone, a North Laurel-Savage Democrat, is sponsoring the measure, which would limit the credits to $5,000 per house and $250,000 a year in the county overall, according to the legislation. The credit could not exceed the total property tax bill for a residence. Guzzone, who is running for House of Delegates, has vowed to introduce statewide credit legislation, if elected.

Guzzone said he has been working with a local group called Enviro Center that is trying to foster the growth of more energy-saving businesses, which led to the legislation.

"In the context of all the energy concerns we have, it seems like we really need to pay more attention to alternative ways to provide for energy and heating and cooling," he said.

"This would allow 50 people the opportunity to put these systems in their homes, given the $5,000 limit," Guzzone said. If residents opted for less costly hot-water solar heat, the program could help up to 170 residents, he said.

Lee Walker Oxenham, political director of the county's Sierra Club chapter, said, "I think that's a great idea. People want to do something in their own lives to make a difference."

Under the bill, the credit would be either half the eligible cost of the equipment or $5,000, whichever is less, and a county inspector would have to verify the work. Residents could apply to the county finance office by April 1 each year before the tax year for which they want the credit. The credits would be handed out first come-first served. If too many apply, those left without funding would go onto a waiting list for the next year's $250,000 worth of credits.

The bill appears to have at least unanimous conceptual support from other council members.

"It sounds good on the face of it. It's something I think I can support," said western county Republican Councilman Charles C. Feaga. Council Chairman Christopher J. Merdon, an Ellicott City Republican, agreed.

"In general, anything county government can do to encourage energy conservation is a positive," he said.

Councilman Ken Ulman, a west Columbia Democrat, said, "It's a good way to incentivise people to improve the environment. It's something we want to encourage." Calvin Ball, an east Columbia Democrat, said "I like the idea of supporting those who are supporting our environment."

Guzzone's bill is the second tax-credit bill due for introduction Tuesday night as council members running for office rush to have their ideas become laws.

A bill to freeze property taxes for seniors ages 70 and older with limited incomes is being co-sponsored by Merdon, who is running for county executive, and Feaga.

Earlier in the summer, Guzzone, Ball and Ulman, who also is a candidate for county executive, sponsored a package of zoning reform bills.

Ulman said Monday night at a candidates forum that he will introduce a bill in October to declare a portion of Governor Warfield Parkway a Scenic Road as a way of preserving tall trees.

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