LEONARDTOWN, Md. – St. Mary’s County Commissioners voted unanimously to move forward with proposed legislation to enact an excise tax on new construction in the county at Tuesday’s meeting.

St. Mary’s County Attorney David A. Weiskopf explained that the excise tax is intended to replace a current development impact fee imposed only on residential construction.

In order to charge an impact fee, the county must prove the amount of financial impact from the new development and spend that money to pay for those costs.
If the new excise tax passes, the money goes into the county’s general fund to be spent as commissioners see fit. There is also no need to prove the financial impact of construction.

Commissioner Michael Hewitt said he would support a 1% excise tax that applied to both commercial and residential construction. “My thought process is that if someone’s building a 300,000 home, that fee would be $3,000. Currently, the impact fee is higher than that. The key gets to be a better deal for residential people.”
However, Hewitt said he wanted to be sure the impact fee was repealed.

Commissioner Eric Colvin said educating people about the measure was key. “The comments I’m receiving are ‘There’s the commissioners trying to put in a new tax.’ What we’re trying to do is replace an existing one, put in more flexibility, and potentially lower for the average homeowner. So, I support it.”

Commissioners asked Weiskopf if there was a way to change the proposed legislation to remove the impact fee at the same time. The County Attorney came up with the solution of amending the current impact fee ordinance to say St. Mary’s County can have an impact fee or an excise tax but not both.

That change met with the unanimous approval of the commissioners and they voted in favor of the measure.

The change now moves on for the Maryland House and Senate to approve. There will be a joint public meeting with the St. Mary’s County Commissioners and the St. Mary’s County Delegation at 6 pm on October six to discuss the issue further.