County pro­poses im­pact fee to re­place ex­cise tax

Times-Record - - FRONT PAGE - By ABBY AN­DREWS aan­drews@car­o­line­times­record.com

DEN­TON — The Caro­line County com­mis­sion­ers at their meet­ing Tues­day, Aug. 28, in­tro­duced two bills that, if passed, will al­low the county to col­lect im­pact fees on all new res­i­den­tial con­struc­tion, in­clud­ing multi-unit build­ings within town lim­its.

A pub­lic hear­ing on both bills is sched­uled dur­ing the com­mis­sion­ers’ next meet­ing, 6:15 p.m. Tues­day, Sept. 11, in the meet­ing room in the Caro­line County Cir­cuit Court­house, 109 Mar­ket St., Den­ton.

The pro­posed bills are the prod­uct of sev­eral months of dis­cus­sions about how the county could col­lect fees on apart­ment build­ings and town­houses, to off­set the in­fra­struc­ture needed to sup­port those ad­di­tional res­i­dents, specif­i­cally school con­struc­tion.

Cur­rently, the county only col­lects a $5,000 ex­cise tax when a lot is cre­ated, not when a struc­ture is built, said Chief of Staff Sara Vis­in­tainer.

The de­vel­op­ment im­pact fee pro­posed to re­place that tax would also be $5,000, Vis­in­tainer said, but would al­low the county to bill all new res­i­den­tial con­struc­tion, in both in­cor­po­rated and un­in­cor­po­rated ar­eas, more uni­formly and fairly.

State law does not al­low coun­ties to im­pose both an ex­cise tax and an im­pact fee, so the first step is to re­peal the ex­ist­ing ex­cise tax.

Vice Pres­i­dent Wil­bur Le­ven­good asked if the bill’s lan­guage makes it clear the county can still par­tic­i­pate in the state’s agri­cul­tural land preser­va­tion pro­gram with­out the ex­cise tax.

Vis­in­tainer said the state only re­quires match­ing funds from the county, but that money can come from the op­er­at­ing bud­get; it is not re­quired to come from an ex­cise tax.

Fi­nance staff mem­bers are work­ing on rec­om­men­da­tions for where that fund­ing should come from in the op­er­at­ing bud­get, she said.

“The money the county is for­go­ing by not be­ing able to col­lect on th­ese other types of con­struc­tion far out­paces what the county cur­rently col­lects on ag land preser­va­tion (via the ex­cise tax),” Vis­in­tainer said.

The com­mis­sion­ers then voted unan­i­mously to in­tro­duce the bill re­peal­ing the ex­cise tax. The sec­ond step is adopt­ing an im­pact fee. As cur­rently writ­ten, the bill that would es­tab­lish that fee would ex­empt farm lots, de­fined as com­ing from a par­cel of at least 20 acres used for agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion, when trans­ferred directly from the farmer to a child or grand­child.

Com­mis­sioner Dan Franklin said he would pre­fer to see that changed so any gift of land to a child or grand­child, no mat­ter the size or use of the par­cel, is ex­empt.

“If you had five acres and wanted to give an acre to your son, you should be able to with­out pay­ing an im­pact fee,” Franklin said. “For a gift of land, there shouldn’t be an im­pact fee.”

Vis­in­tainer said that can be dis­cussed for amend­ment dur­ing the bill’s up­com­ing readings; the act Aug. 28 would merely in­tro­duce the bill.

The com­mis­sion­ers then voted unan­i­mously to in­tro­duce it.

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