UPDATED (4:50 p.m.) — Citing increasing budgetary pressures from the state, County Executive Kevin Kamenetz is asking the General Assembly to give the county power to increase a number of business-related fees and move parking ticket appeals out of the District Court.
"We're not trying to hurt anyone here—we're just trying to establish what we think is a reasonable rate," Kamenetz, a Democrat, said during a meeting with county delegates in Annapolis. (Listen to the full testimony here.)
Some of the fees on the table include those for liquor and chain store licenses, as well as those for laundry services and billiards tables.
"In 1920, it cost five cents for a loaf of bread, 29 cents for a gallon of milk and a traders license was $15," Kamenetz said. "In 2010, it costs $2.50 for a loaf of bread, $3 for a gallon of milk and a traders license costs $15."
Kamenetz said the county faces increased budgetary pressures from the state and called the changes "an opportunity to raise revenues."
"I'm just looking to pick pennies up off the floor," Kamenetz said.
Kamenetz said the goal of fees for liquor licenses is to pay for the expense of the county Liquor Board Commissioners and inspectors. Those costs run about $700,000 annually.
Since being sworn in, Kamenetz combined to top staff positions into one and froze hiring for a vacant liquor inspector position.
"Yet we're still $200,000 in the hole," Kamenetz said.
Overall, county revenues are on pace to be nearly $40 million short compared to expectations when the budget was passed last spring.
Kamenetz said the county has had to make up about $250 million in state highway user funds that were taken from the county to balance the state budget.
Kamenetz said the "slight adjustments" would increase revenues from business license increases from $1.1 million to $2.3 million annually.
Proposed increases to liquor license fees would increase county revenues from $700,000 to nearly $1.6 million annually.
The bills, as written, ask the General Assembly to give the county executive and council the authority to change the fees. Currently, General Assembly approval is needed for such changes.
Members of the county Senate delegation expressed concern Thursday over the bills and expressed an unwillingness to cede that authority to the county, according to Sen. Kathy Klausmeier, who chairs the county delegation.
Kamenetz said Friday if the House and Senate delegations were unwilling to give up the power he would be willing to amend the bill to contain specific fee increases, thereby putting legislators in the position of casting votes for those increases in a year when most have said they are hesitant to raise taxes or fees.
The county executive also asked the delegation to approve a bill creating a pilot program that would move appeals on parking tickets issued in the county from the district court to the county Office of Administrative law.
Kamenetz said when tickets go before district court judges, the fines are typically waived in lieu of court costs that go entirely to the state.