Board makes decisions on charter's 3 essential issues Panel rejects tax limit, backs elected executive and voting by districts

September 28, 1997|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

The Carroll County Charter Board has made three critical decisions regarding the document that could change local government from three commissioners to a county executive and council.

The nine-member panel last week voted against including a tax ceiling in the charter. Only the chairwoman, Carmen M. Amedori, voted in favor of the measure, which many said contributed to the defeat of the 1992 charter initiative.

"For as conservative a county as we are, I feel charter will fail without a tax cap," Amedori said. "Concerned homeowners want to know there is some kind of protection in place."

Christopher M. Nevin, board vice president and Hampstead mayor, said decisions on taxes should be left to elected officials. A tax ceiling would have limited the amount of property taxes officials could collect.

"The debate should be held by elected officials, who have the mandate of the voters after charter is passed," Nevin said. "We also did not know what effect a cap could have on the county's overall financial picture and its bond rating."

The board settled another point of debate, voting 6-3 for an elected county executive rather than one appointed by the council.

"We had a lot of good debate and decided that the executive running the day-to-day affairs of government should be accountable directly to the people, not once removed," Nevin said.

Amedori said the arguments swayed her, although she had lobbied for an appointed executive since the board began meeting in June. She will continue to push for an age minimum of 35 years for the position.

"I know I have to compromise," she said.

Members unanimously decided that election of the five council members would be by district. The panel set the council salary at $15,000 annually but is undecided on the executive's salary.

"We have dealt with the three big dominoes, the three most common things that make people vote one way or the other," Nevin said.

Nevin and New Windsor Mayor Jack A. Gullo Jr., a board member and attorney, will write the charter, incorporating the panel's decisions as they are made.

The board has 17 charters to use as guidelines, including the charter rejected by Carroll voters five years ago. Members can also refer questions to the county attorney or the Institute for Government Services at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Amedori has scheduled weekly meetings through Oct. 30 at Carroll Community College, and included time "to digest the draft document," she said. The board hopes to have an initial draft prepared before the end of the year.

"We want a simple, overall structure in place," said Nevin. "We will keep plugging away."

Once the charter is written, County Commissioners will publish it twice in local newspapers. They could schedule a special election or put the initiative on the November 1998 ballot.

On the same ballot would be an initiative to expand the board to five commissioners. Commissioner Richard T. Yates said last week that a proposal to keep the current three-commissioner government also should be on the ballot.

Sen. Larry E. Haines, a Republican who chairs the county's legislative delegation, called Yates' proposal unnecessary. Two initiatives on the ballot are enough, he said.

"If they don't pass, we will stay with the current form of government," Haines said.

Pub Date: 9/28/97

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