Dorchester County Suspends Excise Tax - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Dorchester County Suspends Excise Tax

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CAMBRIDGE, Md.- In a four to one vote, and then a three to two vote, the Dorchester County Council approved a measure to lift the county's excise tax over the next two years.

Over the past two months the county has worked with municipalities to temporarily suspend the application of impact fees, in exchange for the county's suspension of the excise tax.

An excise tax is collected one time only when a developer prepares for construction on an undeveloped lot.  In Dorchester County, that fee can be over three thousand dollars.  The amount is based off of square footage.  Money raised from the excise tax goes to county schools, 911 services, and the sheriff's department.

Sheriff James Phillips says his department does not get much of the excise tax funds, and the suspension should not effect the operation of his department.

On the other hand, Dorchester County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Henry Wagner says it throws a wrench in plans to build a new North Dorchester High School.  The current NDHS was built in 1963 and has sustained numerous renovations over the years but has not held up well according to Wagner.  The Board of Education hoped funds collected through the excise tax program would help alleviate the financial burden of a new school.

At Tuesday's council meeting, two votes were held after public comment.  In the first vote, District Two Councilman William Nichols was the lone dissenter.  However, after the vote was held, Nichols gave a passionate speech, saying that the county was making a mistake, and giving tax breaks to wealthy developers and passing the cost on to Dorchester County taxpayers.  District Four Councilman Tom Bradshaw then asked to change his decision in a second vote, making himself and Nichols opposed to the bill, but the suspension still passed.

Bradshaw says he believes developers need to pay their fair share to the county, and that in some cases, the excise tax should be scaled, and even raised based off the cost of the property.  Earlier in the day, Bradshaw said a suspension of the tax would attract new businesses, industry, and developments to the county, boosting their economy.

Nichols has been opposed to the change since the beginning of the discussion in March.

"It's less money for the departments and everything.  And I think whoever is gonna be sitting on this board next year is gonna say what happened.  Sometimes what you do today will affect you tomorrow." said Nichols.

The excise tax was first implemented ten years ago. 

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