The Bedrooming of Carroll County CARROLL COUNTY

June 02, 1993

The recently released strategic plan of the Carroll County Economic Development Commission doesn't mince many words in painting a gloomy future for the county. Unless the jurisdiction's industrial tax base rises dramatically, residents face higher property taxes, more school crowding and increased road congestion.

During the past decade, the county's residential tax base boomed twice as fast as its industrial tax base. This disproportionate growth means that more people are residing in the county but working elsewhere. About 55 percent of workers in the county commute to jobs in other jurisdictions. Why should Carroll countians be concerned about more commuting workers?

For one, county studies show that for every dollar collected from a residential taxpayer, the county must spend $1.22 to provide services, such as schools, police and fire protection and recreation. For every dollar collected from an industrial taxpayer, the county spends only 55 cents. Looked at from another perspective, even though industrial and commercial land comprises 14 percent of the county's real property, it generates 26 percent of total property tax revenue. Increasing the industrial and commercial tax base will relieve more of the burden from residential shoulders.

There's a social impact, too: People who must travel great distances to work are less apt to get involved in local government, youth leagues and other functions because they have less free time. That dilutes the county's sense of community.

County government should make a greater priority of attracting business. One important move would be for the commissioners to hire a full-time economic development director. The current arrangement of having their executive assistant, Robert A. "Max" Bair, act as the economic director telegraphs the message that business growth is a low-level concern. While Mr. Bair has helped the commissioners keep abreast of important business issues, his other duties divert him from focusing solely on economic development, placing Carroll at a disadvantage with other jurisdictions.

The economic commission's strategic report recommends adding a staff person to the county's Office of Economic Development. That person should be a full-time director. How else does Carroll expect to shift the residential-industrial balance?

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