Sykesville parents who are pushing for a building moratorium in South Carroll might be on to something. Because county officials refuse to commit to construction of a new middle school in that growing area, parents there have decided to pressure planners to stop approving new developments. Their argument is that adding new residents to that section of the county will aggravate the crowding at already cramped Sykesville Middle School.
While the activists want to ensure adequate public facilities to accommodate the county's projected growth, their initiative may also force the commissioners to confront the county's fiscal situation in a more forthright manner.
At the moment, the commissioners say they don't have the $12 million required to construct a new South Carroll middle school. The state, which normally pays for 65 percent of school construction costs, hasn't considered the need for the school pressing and, thus, isn't willing to pay for it. The commissioners, meanwhile, have dismissed any thoughts of raising taxes for school construction.
The result: They say their hands are tied, and students and parents should just accept the fact that Sykesville Middle School will remain overcrowded for some time.
Rather than raise the local taxes or float the bonds necessary to finance needed public infrastructure such as schools, the commissioners seem to believe -- erroneously -- that new housing developments will eventually generate the necessary money.
Through their actions to halt or slow construction in South Carroll, the activists would also staunch the growth in the county's assessable base. That growth has allowed the county to balance its budget without raising the property tax rate over the past four years. A leveling of the tax base combined with a static tax rate is sure to result in large budget shortfalls.
The majority of 500 residents who attended an emotional public meeting recently said they were willing to pay greater taxes if that revenue were channeled into school construction.
While many Carroll residents might prefer to keep taxes where they are, a growing segment seems willing to accept higher taxes to pay for public improvements that are necessary to sustain the county's quality of life.