Lower Taxes, Cut Services, Residents Say

December 19, 1991|By Paul Shread | Paul Shread,Staff writer

Two-thirds of county residents think they pay too much in taxes for the services they receive, while only 1 percent think they don't pay enough.

The results of a survey released at a press conference yesterday came as no surprise to county officials. Elderly residents were most in favor of lower taxes, with 75 percent saying they thought their taxes were too high.

Asked what they would most like the county to do to improve the quality of life for residents, 34 percent chose lower taxes over better police protection, education or growth controls. Sixty-three percent said they would be unwilling to pay higher taxes for better services.

County officials will use the information to develop a fiscal 1993

budget.

"We've learned a great deal from this," said CountyExecutive Robert R. Neall. "It's going to be helpful in making some of the tough decisions we're going to make, and we've got to make a bunch of them."

The telephone survey of 801 adults was conducted between Sept. 9 and Sept. 25 by the Center for the Study of Local Issues at Anne Arundel Community College. Because the survey was done before the county budget crisis struck in October, Neall said he wants topoll residents again in January before making final budget decisions.

The survey found that residents generally approve of county services, with fire protection, trash collection and libraries receiving good or excellent reviews from 85 percent of respondents. Fifty-threepercent of all respondents approved of county schools; 62 percent ofthose with enrolled children gave the schools good marks.

Neall and economic development aide Patrick Gonzales said they were surprised that growth is no longer the concern it was during the boom years of the 1980s. Taxes ranked as the No. 1 concern for 33 percent of respondents, education was the primary concern for 20 percent and growth came in third at 15 percent.

"It's probably a result of the sagging economy," Neall said. "People are realizing a little growth can be healthy."

However, 90 percent of residents said they wanted to seestricter controls on development. Residents also said they thought developers would be the best source of new revenue, with 73 percent favoring development fees.

If the county must cut services, 69 percent of residents wanted arts and cultural programs cut first. Sixty-three percent said the county should cut education if faced with tough choices.

However, Neall said he has no intention of cutting arts programs, affordable housing or health programs, all low priorities for county residents.

The poll is the first ever conducted by the county to determine residents' budget priorities. The poll has a marginof error of 3.5 percent, officials said. Neall said he wants to pollresidents every six months to get a clear view of what they want.

"In good times, you can afford to make mistakes," Neall said. "A million dollars in the mid-to-late 1980s wouldn't have been noticed. Youmake a $1 million mistake now, it will matter. This will help us to make some sound policy decisions with the resources we have."

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