Two cents' worth Carroll County: Small increase in property tax rate could save libraries.

March 11, 1996

HOW MUCH is it worth to the taxpayers of Carroll County to maintain the current level of library service?

All it would take to keep libraries open six days a week and their collections current is to add two cents to the county's current property tax rate of $2.35 per $100 of assessed valuation. The county commissioners seem prepared to sacrifice a well-used public service because they steadfastly refuse to even consider raising the property tax rate a modest amount.

Each additional penny on the local tax rate results in slightly more than $334,000 in county revenues. In order to reduce a projected $5 million budget shortfall, the county libraries are facing cuts of about $600,000. If this proposed reduction in the budget is enacted, library hours could be reduced by as much as one-third. Adding two cents on the tax rate could stay the library budget from the chopping block and ensure that Carroll maintains its excellent system.

For a home assessed at $100,000, the additional outlay if the rate were to go to $2.37 would amount to about $8 a year, or 15 cents a week.

For a house assessed at $150,000, the additional cost would be about $1 a month. Maintaining a library system that boasts among the highest per-capita usage in the state certainly seems worth that minute additional cost.

In fact, if the commissioners raised the property tax rate 10 cents, it would still be below other metropolitan jurisdictions and the county's current budget "crisis" would recede. The budget could be balanced without slashing people and programs. More importantly, the county government could continue to provide the current level of services. Instead of spending countless hours on "program priority reviews," the commissioners could devote more time and energy to important long-range policy issues that truly impact on quality-of-life, such as managing growth.

The commissioners may say the voters didn't put them in office to raise taxes. Neither did the voters put them in office to shut libraries, lay off dozens of employees, starve social agencies or ignore maintenance of county roads. Yet, these will be the results of enacting the proposed budget in Carroll County for fiscal year 1997.

Pub Date: 3/11/96

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