Time to raise the 'piggyback' tax? CARROLL COUNTY

December 23, 1992

Carroll's Planning Commission has presented the commissioners the unpleasant -- and unwelcome -- news that taxes will have to be raised if the county is going to build the roads, schools and other public improvements needed to maintain the area's current quality of life and accommodate expected growth.

Without a tax increase, the county can look forward to deteriorating roads, crowded schools and inadequate recreational space.

The planning commission came to this conclusion after approving a "bare bones" $11 million contribution to the county's capital improvements budget. The amount is $2.5 million more than the commissioners had targeted for capital spending in their long-range capital spending plans.

The planning commission is trying to live up to its name by looking into the future and anticipating the county's needs. From that perspective, the commission members decided that the $8.5 million projected earlier by the commissioners would be inadequate. Financing construction of the New Windsor Middle School alone would consume 59 percent of the county's share of the capital budget, leaving meager amounts for road construction and repair, land acquisition and equipment purchases.

There are also expenditures the county cannot postpone. It must spend an estimated $1 million to ensure that county office and school buildings comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act by 1995. Due to the lack of money, the commission tabled a request to upgrade the county's emergency radio system.

Raising taxes is not something the three commissioners want to contemplate, but they may conclude that there is not much left to cut. Planning Commission member Louis J. Pecoraro suggested increasing the county's "piggyback" tax from its current level, which is 50 percent of state income tax. The General Assembly has given the counties the option of raising it to 60 percent. The commissioners ought not reject the idea out of hand.

Sticking with an inadequate capital budget carries undesirable consequences that will erode Carroll's quality of life. The effects of neglected long-range planning and investment for a growing population won't surface overnight. But in several years, motorists could be driving on crumbling roads and students could be sitting in crowded classes. No one wants that.

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