County Executive Robert R. Neall's Tax Study Commission said yesterday that he should cut property taxes by $50 million and consider increasing some fees and enacting others.
The committee suggested as last resorts charging inmates for time at the detention center, enacting a local sales tax and taxing videocassette rentals and beverage containers.
The committee, made up of representatives from businesses, education and taxpayer groups, was appointed by Neall in July in response to concerns expressed during the 1990 election that too much of the county's $598 million budget was paid for by property taxes.
The report noted that property taxes now account for 39 percent of the budget, or $231 million. That is up from 27 percent of the budget in 1980 and 33.8 percent in 1985.
State Sen. John Cade, commission chairman, said the group felt strongly that property taxes should account for only 30 percent of the revenue in the budget.
He said a key steptoward achieving that goal would be to increase the local income tax, or "piggyback taxes," collected by the state and distributed to thecounties, from 50 percent to 60 percent of the state income tax.
That would yield about $26 million, roughly the same amount raised by26 cents on the current $2.46 property tax rate, the report says.
But by far the most controversial proposals include 17 revenue alternatives that together would raise up to $51 million. The commission said Neall should consider them "only when all expenditure reduction options have been exhausted."
They include a 0.5 percent local sales and use tax (that would raise $14 million), a 3.5 percent local corporate income tax ($9.6 million), a 5 percent tax on rental fees for videocassettes (up to $450,000), a 2-cent and 4-cent tax on beverage containers ($3.2 million), a 5 percent charge on bowling lane use (upto $900,000), a 3-cents-per-pack tax on cigarettes ($1 million), a motor vehicle tax of $25 per vehicle for county residents ($8 million)and a $50 per day boarding fee for detention center inmates ($3.2 million).
"As a practical matter, the two largest proposed revenue producers, the local corporate income tax and the local sales and use tax, would require state enabling authority which would probably not be forthcoming," the report said. "These two alternatives should probably not be considered as seriously by the county executive as the other alternatives."
The group also recommended that Neall raise $2.8 million by increasing fees for building and subdivision permits, liquor license and plumbing permits. Another $265,000 would come from increasing taxes for movie tickets and bingo games. The report also recommended increasing fees for professional licenses, such as those required of electricians and plumbers.
A bill pending before the County Council would raise thefees for professional licenses.
The commission also recommended that Neall appoint a 12- to 15-member advisory committee to look for ways for the county to streamline county operations.
Neall wholeheartedly endorsed the report yesterday. He said he would try to incorporate as many of the recommendations as possible into the budget he is preparing for the fiscal year that begins on July 1.