Poll shows support for higher taxes Yet tax cap won by huge margin


Perhaps exhibiting a case of collective amnesia, Anne Arundel County residents said they would be willing to pay higher taxes for police and fire protection, education and anti-drug programs, according to a survey released yesterday.

And only 38 percent of those polled could remember voting for the tax cap on last November's ballot, despite the fact the measure passed with 70 percent of the vote.

"Ah, how quickly we forget," said County Executive Robert R. Neall, referring to the poll results in his annual budget message.

The tax cap limited the increase in property tax revenue the county can collect each year to 4.5 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less. This year, the rate of inflation was 2.9 percent, causing the county to lower the tax rate by 4 cents per $100 of assessed value. That cost Anne Arundel $9 million in tax revenue.

The loss was a major factor in forcing Mr. Neall to reorganize county government, a move that will cause about 100 layoffs.

Thirty-two percent of those asked said they voted against the tax cap, corresponding to the actual vote.

The survey of 809 county residents last month was conducted by PEG Research in Riva. The county commissions a survey twice a year to assist in executive planning.

Pollsters asked the residents which services they would be willing to pay more for:

* 72 percent said fire and police protection;

* 65 percent said education;

* 55 percent said drug education.

Respondents opposed more money for libraries and economic development programs.

A majority of those polled feel taxes are too high.

"Even though we have the lowest property tax rate of the largest counties in the Baltimore metropolitan area, 61 percent of the respondents said they believed county residents still pay too many taxes in relationship to the services they receive," Mr. Neall said.

"But we're headed in the right direction," the county executive said. "This is five points less than the 66 percent who responded this way two years ago."

When asked how the county should deal with its budget problems, 60 percent said Mr. Neall's efforts to shrink the government are on the right track.

And 81 percent said that raising property taxes was a bad way to deal with budget woes, while 71 percent said raising the local piggyback income tax is a bad idea.

The survey's margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 percent.

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