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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Is the county council preparing for another attempt to raise taxes?

(Posted 22 Jan 2009)

Consultant says county should raise taxes, Council looks at ways to maintain services during economic recession.
Gazette, 22 Jan 2009 (Valentine ).
Prince George's County should consider raising taxes and imposing new fees in order to maintain services during the current recession, according to a report by a San Francisco, Calif.-based financial consultant.

"To continue levels of service and public safety, the county will have to find new revenue sources," Calvin Grigsby wrote in his report for the county, "Adjusting to the Fiscal Impact of the Economic Downturn."

The council heard the report during its Jan. 5 retreat. The report recommends the council consider "revenue streams" to survive the economic downturn, including raising property and hotel taxes and imposing a commuter tax on visiting federal employees.

Citing declines in home sales, rising foreclosures and other effects of the global economic recession, Grigsby said the county must consider tax and fee increases and lobby the federal government for aid.

"County taxes should be pushed to those areas that are successful," wrote Grigsby, who said the county should ask the state to increase the scope and rates on hotel, admissions and amusement taxes.

It is unclear whether the council plans to follow the consultant's advice. Council members did not return calls for comment. Spokeswoman Karen Campbell was unable to answer questions about the report.
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County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) has hinted at seeking new taxes to balance a $100 million budget deficit. Earlier this month, Johnson said he planned to ask state leaders for "revenue enhancement" soon, though he would provide no other details.

Del. Melony Griffith (D-Dist. 25) of Upper Marlboro said the executive has not provided details about how he will seek more money for the county and could not say what chance any measure would have of passing the state.
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County leaders have tried to circumvent the charter restriction by getting the state legislature to approve new fees and increases. Last year, County Council members raised the state income tax limit for residents to its maximum over protests from anti-tax advocates.
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Campbell was unable to provide information about how much Grigsby's firm was paid for the consultant work.
[Full article]

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