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Residents must wait to learn if local income taxes will rise


County residents will have to wait a little longer to find out whether they will be paying more in local income taxes this year.

The County Council voted along party lines Monday to make June 1 the day it decides the piggyback tax issue. If levied, the tax, a percentage of state income taxes collected for local use, would rise from 50 percent to 52 percent and be retroactive to Jan. 1.

Council members say that, by law, June 1 is the only day piggyback taxes can be raised. In reality, the council will have decided the issue by May 21. That's when the council adopts the county budget and approves the property tax rate for fiscal 1993.

Council Chairman Paul R. Farragut, D-4th, said his motion to call the council into session to vote on the piggyback tax June 1 should not be construed as support for the measure.

"The making of this motion does not imply that I'm in favor of the piggyback tax," Farragut said. He said support for putting the tax question on the council docket was to give the county flexibility in raising revenues. The tax would be expected to produce an extra $4,431,800.

Darrel Drown, R-2nd, said the county doesn't need that flexibility. He said he has no intention of supporting a piggyback increase. To propose an increase that the council may later decide the county doesn't need sends residents a confused message, he said.

Charles C. Feaga, R-5th, like Drown, voted against putting the measure on the council docket. Feaga cast his vote without comment. He had said earlier he would not support a piggyback increase.

C. Vernon Gray, D-3rd, also voted without comment. Earlier, Gray said he proposed the increase because he believes it will be needed to replace money County Executive Charles I. Ecker cut from the education portion of the budget.

Ecker said that despite the reductions he made in the Board of Education's request, the school system would still be getting an $11 million increase over fiscal 1992 -- enough, he said, to continue to provide quality education.

Shane Pendergrass, D-1st, said she hopes the council will get the budget worked out without a piggyback tax increase, but said she was voting to put it on the docket just in case.

The council also voted Monday to postpone action on an employee pay bill until May 21, when it adopts the budget and sets the property tax rate for fiscal 1993. The fiscal year begins July 1.

The pay bill, which affects non-school system employees, would provide county workers a minimum raise of $400 for fiscal 1993. Non-school system employees suffered a 2 percent cut in fiscal 1992 because of a five-day furlough.

In other action Monday, the council voted unanimously to require the county to aggressively purchase products made with recycled materials.

Farragut, the author of the bill, hailed its passage. He said it would encourage the recycling industry here, help stimulate the market for recycled goods and has the potential to create jobs.

The bill had been put on hold while Gray and Drown got information from the administration on what it would cost to implement the bill. Gray said there would be an initial cost of $7,500, followed by annual costs of $1,500.

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