WHEN THEN-Harford County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann wanted to levy impact fees on developers to pay for residential construction, some state lawmakers said no.
Current County Executive James M. Harkins was one of those legislators. Because of his action, his county faced a $7 million budget deficit. He was asked last spring whether he should have backed Ms. Rehrmann while serving in the legislature. "In hindsight, I wish I would have," he said.
Carroll County's commissioners may be equally remorseful down the road. And Anne Arundel County should take note.
The Carroll County commissioners increased the fee only nominally in 1998 and this week rejected a meaningful hike, saying it would be counterproductive.
One commissioner pointed out that higher impact fees would hurt the county's ability to provide affordable housing. That's a fair point, but the county has other methods -- it needs only the will -- to provide affordable housing while ensuring that new construction doesn't break the bank.
An Anne Arundel County task force is discussing the possibility of raising impact fees to meet the growing jurisdiction's enormous costs. The task force must consider affordability, but it also must tackle the real demands: the county's $7 million annual debt service for road improvements and as much as $400 million to repair, replace and renovate schools.
Other local taxes also help pay the bill. Anne Arundel County raised its property tax rates this year, but that figure ($2.40 per $100 of assessed value) is lower than Carroll County's ($2.62) and Harford's ($2.73).
Carroll County is betting that it won't need impact fees, just as Harford legislators did. Harford raised its local income tax this year. Somewhere in this scheme is a lesson for Anne Arundel County.