Glowing picture of county painted Commissioners say trash problem solved, growth slowed

January 09, 1998|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

The County Commissioners gave the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce a preview yesterday of the way they plan to campaign for re-election this year.

They told a luncheon crowd of 135 that they have solved the county's 13-year-old trash problem, slowed residential growth, preserved farmland, increased economic development and funded needed schools.

Only Commissioner Donald I. Dell mentioned in the annual tri-part State of the County address that the achievements came about largely because of tax increases voted by him and Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown.

"It's a very lonely feeling when even your best friends and your family condemn that action," Dell said.

Dell and Brown voted a 27-cent increase in the property tax rate in 1996 to cover the county's operating expenses and adopted a 16 percent increase in the local income tax rate in 1995 to pay for new school construction.

Brown backed away from that income tax increase early last year, saying the state had not shared construction costs at the level he had expected and the plan was therefore not workable.

He proposed instead that the county cut the local income rate tax rate from 58 percent to 55 percent of an individual's state tax liability and use the income above the 50 percent level to pay interest on school bonds.

Brown noted in his remarks yesterday that Carroll ranks number one in the state over the past 10 years in terms of increasing the amount of money spent on public schools.

Neither the current Board of County Commissioners nor previous boards "have anything to be ashamed about" in terms of funding the school budget, Brown said. "What I am concerned about," he said, "is that we do not have enough money. We've got to find a way to put more money into education."

Keeping pace with a constantly changing store of knowledge is essential not only for schools, but for governments as well, said Brown, adding that he is concerned about government being slow in responding to problems. "What frustrates me," he said, "is that we take so darn long to recognize a problem and deal with it."

The county and state should devote more money -- not less -- to "enhancing work-force skills development," Brown said. "If you're going along at the speed of light on the information highway and TC can't afford to train somebody, you're going to leave a lot of people behind," he said. "We've got to put more money into skill development or we're going to be another [1960s] Appalachia," he said.

Yates, in his remarks, rued what he called "a clamor out there to change county government." The county General Assembly delegation wants to expand the board to five commissioners, he said, and "the people in South Carroll want [a] charter" form of government headed by an elected county executive and county council.

"Any time you change government it costs more," Yates said. "We're accessible. Any time you want to see us, you can."

He said he had calculated a per-hour salary based on the number of hours he and his fellow commissiones work each week and came up with a figure of 86 cents per hour.

Yates also told the chamber he had fulfiled his 1994 campaign pledge to control residential growth. Yates said that in 1995, his first year in office, 1,259 residential building permits were issued and 722 in 1997.

Dell, a farmer, told chamber members the county's agricultural preservation program is "alive and well" because of measures taken this term. He also noted that the commissioners had gone along with his decision to export the county's trash to an incinerator in Pennsylvania.

Still to be done, Dell said, are reviewing the county's master plan, amending the ethics ordinance and passing a budget "that will make everybody want to have a party."

Pub Date: 1/09/98

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