Anne Arundel

Arundel Council defies Leopold, reduces income tax rate

The Anne Arundel County Council voted Monday night to temporarily lower the county's income tax rate, a move that was sharply rebuked by County Executive John R. Leopold.

The council voted 5-2 to lower the rate from 2.56 to 2.50 for a year, which will save taxpayers a total of about $8 million. The move comes a month after the council voted to increase the county's property tax rate.

Leopold, a Republican who pushed for the property tax increase, said the council's latest action could have dire effects on labor negotiations, state funding and the county's bond rating.

"This pernicious, fiscally irresponsible action could have serious adverse consequences for our county," said Leopold, who added that the county is expecting to be short $32 million going into the next fiscal year.

The bipartisan measure was introduced by Councilman Daryl Jones, a Democrat from Severn, and Jerry Walker, a Republican from Edgewater. Walker said a break for county taxpayers was the "responsible thing to do."

The measure was opposed by Councilman John Grasso, a Glen Burnie Republican, and Chairman Richard Ladd, a Severna Park Republican. Vice Chairman Derek Fink, a Pasadena Republican, attempted to amend the bill to add a sunset provision, which would have forced the council to vote on raising the income tax level when the lower rate expires in a year.

County Budget Officer John Hammond nearly begged the council to reconsider before they cast the vote. "When you're in a hole, stop digging — and you're digging deeper. Please get some fiscal sanity before you cast this vote."

A handful of people testified on the income tax rate proposal.

Craig Oldershaw, president of the county's firefighters union, argued against the tax cut, saying the drop in revenue it would create would ultimately be balanced through employee and benefits cuts to county employees.

"If you're looking for re-election, I understand it," said Oldershaw. "But stop doing it on the backs of county employees."

Marie Keene, a Glen Burnie resident, said she supported the move.

"Any funds that you can return back to the taxpayers would be a big service to the taxpayer," said Keene. "Everything is sky high. Food has gone up, gasoline is up. People are suffering out here in Anne Arundel County."