My Testimony Regarding Ho. Co. 15-18

My Testimony Regarding Ho. Co. 15-18

The following is my written testimony pertaining to Howard County State Delegation Proposed Legislation 15-18, which would authorize the County Council to make changes to the allocation formula under the Transfer Tax. Specifically, it would allow the Council to increase the allocation to the School Site Acquisition and Construction Fund, while decreasing the allocations to other funds. My testimony also touched upon Proposed Legislation 12-28, which would authorize the Council to make alterations to the School Facilities Surcharge. Details regarding Ho. Co. 15-18 can be found here. I provided oral testimony to the Delegation at their Public Hearing on Wednesday, November 29, 2017:

Good Evening Chair Guzzone, Chair Ebersole, Members of the State Delegation,

My name is Steve Hunt, and I live in North Laurel, Maryland. I’m here to provide testimony pertaining to Proposed Legislation 15-18, which would change the allocation formula under the Transfer Tax.

I would first like to thank Delegate Flanagan for putting forth this proposal. As a member of the County Executive’s Spending Affordability Advisory Committee, I – along with my colleagues on the SAAC – have for years supported the idea of giving our County government more flexibility with respect to the management of the Transfer Tax, including funds generated and the allocation formula. This proposal is a step in the right direction, and I appreciate the fact that it is being considered.

That said, I cannot fully support 15-18 as currently proposed. While I appreciate the desire to move more funding into school capital projects, this proposal – if passed – would put the County in the unenviable position of having to decide which category under the Tax receives less funding through a reduced allocation amount. There are four other categories that could be impacted, a number that would be reduced to three if the conditional exemption for the Ag Land Preservation Fund needs to be applied.

I believe there is a better way to achieve this goal, thus I would respectfully submit the following proposal. Rather than pursue the School Facilities Surcharge alteration under Proposal 12-18 that was discussed earlier this evening, I recommend that the Delegation propose an increase of the Transfer Tax from 1.0% to 1.25%, with the understanding that the increased amount be applied fully to the allocation for school capital projects. This would get the desired increased funding for school site acquisition and construction, while not impacting the other existing allocations. Additionally, it would increase the amount of money available to leverage for capital bond financing, and would impact both new construction and existing homes.

For your information, I’ve attached a copy of the FY2018 Spending Affordability Report that was submitted to the County Executive and Council, which (on page 6) includes additional recommendations regarding the Transfer Tax. On behalf of our Chair, Steve Sachs, I and other representatives of the SAAC would be willing to make ourselves available to meet with the Delegation to discuss our Report, and the new fiscal reality that Howard County is now in. In the meantime, I’m available to answer any questions regarding my proposal. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Here are some other links of interest:

Ho. Co. 12-18:

Ho. Co. 13-18:

FY 2018 Spending Affordability Report:

As always, please feel free to contact me with your thoughts, concerns, etc. Thanks.

~ Steve