Leaders of Crofton's special tax district are taking a cautious approach to a University of Maryland study that recommends that the community become an incorporated town or city.
"This may be the most significant issue the community will face," said Crofton board member Ken Chute. "It shouldn't be rushed in double-time. I think we should put the time and effort into doing it right."
The 43-page report, by the Institute of Governmental Affairs at the University of Maryland College Park, was submitted to County Executive Robert R. Neall yesterday morning.
The Crofton Civic Association wants to hear what Neall's office thinks of the report before scheduling public hearings. Board members stressed Monday night that theboard hasn't taken a position on the issue.
County Council Chairman David G. Boschert, D-Crownsville, and Councilwoman Virginia P. Clagett, D-West River, whose South County district includes Crofton, said Monday night that they were interested in the report but not ready to commit themselves to a response.
"We have to move forward, but cautiously forward," Boschert said. "This is important to Crofton as well as the county."
Clagett called the report's conclusion that Crofton could get $800,000 from its share in state income tax "astounding," but she cautioned that there may be variables the report didn'taddress. Incorporating would allow Crofton to enact local ordinances, establish business regulations, control land use and receive state and federal money.
It also would allow the community to write its own laws, set up a mayoral form of government, establish inspection agencies and acquire property through eminent domain.
Crofton couldform a limited municipality that gives it all the power of a city but while still allowing it to rely on the county for services such as fire protection, trash pickup and road repairs.
The report, which took nine months to complete, says that if Crofton had been a city infiscal year 1992, it could have received more than $800,000 in statemoney and locally generated funds. The tax district's budget that year was $507,000, generated by a 29-cent property tax rate.
The problem, the report says, is that the $800,000 would come out of county coffers, which have already been been substantially reduced by state budget cuts in recent months.
"It looks too good to be true," saidVictor K. Tervala, one of the report's authors. "And it is too good to be true. I don't think the county is going to buy it."
The report assumes Crofton would not offer any more services as an incorporated municipality than it does now as a tax district. Currently, Crofton's largest public expense is in running a five-member police force, which costs $240,000 a year.
"This might be the thing that kicks it," Tervala said. "The county really gets nothing."
He said that the only way to sell the plan to the county is to offer a "quid pro quo" -- or offer to pick up additional services, such as road maintenance or park and recreation activities.
"You have to provide services that are going to save the county money," Tervala said. "Then at least you have a bargaining position with the county."
Ed Dosek, president of the Crofton Civic Association, said he expects county officials to have an open mind about the report.
"I'm commited to objectivity," he said. "I cannot, even though I see the pluses, go overboard at this point. I can't be totally in favor or against this proposal. I would expect the county to be similarly objective. I can't be totally swayed by the financial aspect, but nor should they."