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Hearing on rise in tax yield draws a little ire


Continuing a trend of an apparent lack of interest in the deliberations on the proposed budget, only three people signed up to testify at a hearing last night on Anne Arundel County's intention to raise the constant-yield tax rate.

Only about 25 people have testified at each of the three previous hearings on the proposed fiscal 1994 budget, a considerable decrease from last year.

The constant-yield rate is the tax rate that would produce the same amount of revenue from property taxes next fiscal year as was produced this year, figuring in increased assessments. The county is required to hold the hearing if its proposed tax rate is higher than the constant-yield rate.

In the $668.6 million budget County Executive Robert R. Neall proposed two weeks ago, the property tax rate drops by only 4 cents, to $2.42 per $100 of assessed valuation. The constant-yield rate is calculated at $2.39, 3 cents lower than Mr. Neall's proposed property tax rate.

One of the three who testified, Harold Gibson of Hammond Park, said he is appealing his assessment, determined by the state, which increased 13.9 percent over the past three years. He asked council members for relief in the form of a lower tax rate. With the tax rate so high, "those of us on a fixed income will be hit quite hard," he said.

Robert T. Muzzuco of Severn, who also testified, said he realized that the state sets property assessments, but "I've lived here for 15 years and my property taxes have gone up four times. They're four times greater than they were 15 years ago."

Budget Officer Steven Welkos told the council that if the constant-yield rate as calculated were adopted, the county would lose $4.2 million in revenue and the budget would have to be reduced by that amount.

Mr. Welkos pointed out that the 3-cent difference between the constant yield rate and Mr. Neall's proposal is the smallest since the measurement was conceived in the late 1970s. Last year, the difference between the two rates was 19 cents.

In other business, the council approved Councilwoman Diane Evans' resolution directing the county auditor to prepare fiscal summaries for all legislation sponsored by council members. Ms. Evans, an Arnold Republican, noted that all legislation submitted by the county executive is accompanied by a fiscal summary prepared by the Budget Office.

"During the short time I've been on the council, one of the questions I get asked most often is, 'Well, how much is a certain proposal going to cost?' " she said.

It is important that "we have benefit of fiscal information to make more informed decisions," she said.

All the fiscal summaries will be available to the public.

The council also approved a $20 increase in marriage license fees. The extra money from the licenses, which will now cost $45, will generate about $76,000 to fund programs to curb domestic violence.

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